Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder: Gardaí identify new witnesses in Ireland, the UK, France and the US
123th December 2022
GARDAÍ have revealed that they have identified new witnesses in the 26-year-old Sophie Toscan du Plantier (39) murder investigation with the individuals located in Ireland, the UK, France and the US.
All will now be interviewed by gardaí as detectives also said they are looking at high-tech new forensic tests in a bid to obtain critical new evidence on the 1996 killing and the identity of the killer.
The revelation came as gardaí staged a major public appeal for information about the brutal West Cork murder. Supt Joseph Moore insisted he was “100pc sure” that people had critical information about the killing who had not yet come forward to gardaí.
The public appeal was issued by Supt Moore in Schull alongside Det Supt Des McTiernan who is leading the major cold case review into the December 23, 1996 murder.
I am convinced there are people out there who have information about this crime and who have not yet come forward to gardaí.
“This is very much a live and ongoing murder investigation,” Supt Moore said.
“We have identified a number of additional witnesses which is currently being worked through by the investigation team.
“There is also an international dimension to this investigation and we have a number of witnesses to interview in France, the UK and beyond. We have engaged with Interpol, Garda HQ and they in turn liaising with garda liaison officers based in Paris and London who are in turn working with our police counterparts in those jurisdictions.
“I am convinced there are people out there who have information about this crime and who have not yet come forward to gardaí.”
“Perhaps they spoke to gardaí (in 1996/97) but were not in a position to tell everything that they knew.
“I am now appealing to those persons, 26 years later, to please come forward and speak to the investigation team.”
Supt Moore said that those critical witnesses may now be “in a different place” in their lives and can help gardaí.
In particular, gardaí are desperately trying to trace Sophie’s final movements and anyone who had contact with her between 4.30pm on December 22 and 10am on December 23, 1996, when her body was found just off a laneway leading to her holiday home at Toormore outside Schull.
Supt Moore said this was now a critical part of their ongoing investigation.
Gardaí also appealed for anyone who travelled on the R591 and R592 roads in West Cork on December 22/23 1996 to contact them.
He vowed that, despite the passage of time, gardaí will not rest until Sophie’s family receive justice.
“I want to see an end to it – I have been involved in this case for a long time,” he said.
“I want to ensure that we gather all the evidence we can and have a file for the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and that we see this crime prosecuted.
“I want to see justice for Sophie and for her family.”
Det Supt McTiernan said Sophie’s family have been very supportive of his Serious Crime Review team and their cold case review of Sophie’s murder file.
“I don’t feel any pressure from Sophie’s family – Sophie’s family have been absolutely brilliant.”
He also vowed that his team’s review will not interfere in any way with the ongoing garda murder investigation.
He added that his review – which will be conducted under 13 terms of reference – will deliver “meaningful and salient recommendations” on the huge murder file which extends far beyond 5,000 statements and pieces of evidence.
However, at least 10 witnesses and gardaí involved in the original murder investigation are now deceased.
Last June, gardaí ordered a review by the Serious Crime Review team into Sophie’s murder.
The 26th anniversary of the murder of the French mother-of-one occurs next week.
The cold case review decision came after repeated calls for a review of the original garda file.
Potentially new information was submitted to gardaí over recent weeks and months and a review was demanded both by justice campaigners for the French film executive as well as Ian Bailey (65) who has been the focus of repeated extradition requests by the French authorities.
Mr Bailey formally wrote to the gardaí last year seeking such a review as he claimed it would finally exonerate him from any involvement in the brutal crime.
The Manchester-born poet and freelance journalist was convicted in absentia by a Paris court of the murder three years ago.
However, he has repeatedly protested his innocence and claimed that the Paris trial – which was conducted in absentia – was “a travesty.”
He was twice arrested for questioning by gardaí in relation to their investigation in 1997 and 1998 but was released without charge on both occasions.
Mr Bailey has vehemently protested his innocence over the years and claimed that sinister attempts were made to frame him for the crime.
Last December, Sophie’s family – led by her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud – staged a private memorial in Paris to mark the 25th anniversary of the film executive’s death.
His eldest daughter is named Sophie in honour of her grandmother and Mr Baudey-Vignaud now spearheads the campaign to see justice done for his mother.
Mr Baudey-Vignaud also publicly appealed, via an appearance on RTÉ’s The Late Late Show, for anyone with information on his mother’s killing to contact gardaí.
Sophie’s parents, Georges and Marguerite, formerly attended a special memorial service in West Cork each year but age, ill health and the Covid-19 pandemic have prevented any of her elderly relatives from travelling.
The film executive was savagely beaten to death as she fled a suspected intruder at her home on December 23, 1996, just hours before she was due to fly back to France to spend Christmas with her family.
She died after a frenzied attack in which she was beaten with a heavy rock after apparently being chased down a laneway from her home as she tried in vain to flee her attacker.
The savagery with which she was attacked shocked both locals and even veteran gardaí with around 50 blows being inflicted.
Such was the repeated and brutal nature of the blows to the head that detectives believed the killer had tried to render her completely unrecognisable.
Detectives have examined potential new evidence over the past 12 months and have interviewed a number of potential witnesses, many in the wake of two high profile documentaries on the case by Sky TV and Netflix.
Mr Bailey said his life had been rendered “a total nightmare” by being wrongly linked with the case for three decades.
“I have been fighting for justice for 24 years – people tend to forget that. I am an innocent person caught up in this nightmare. My life has been destroyed by this.”
“This has been a never-ending nightmare for me.”
“The truth is that some people want to see me bonfired for this – for something I am totally innocent of.”
Sophie’s beloved Toormore holiday cottage is now owned by her son, Pierre-Louis.