Home / World News / Briton Ian Bailey faces French trial for woman’s 1996 murder

Briton Ian Bailey faces French trial for woman’s 1996 murder

A British man accused of killing a French woman in Ireland is to go on trial in France in his absence.

Ian Bailey was first questioned over the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in February 1997, just over a month after her body was found at her holiday home in County Cork.

Despite an extensive and ongoing Irish police inquiry, he was never charged with her murder.

A French magistrate opened a separate inquiry in 2008 as, under French law, authorities can investigate crimes against French citizens committed outside of the country.

A European arrest warrant was issued but Irish courts have twice refused to extradite Bailey.

The victim was the wife of celebrated French film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who worked with a series of European art house directors including the UK’s Peter Greenaway.

She was 39 at the time of her death, and died three years after she bought her holiday home in the isolated hamlet of Drinane on the southern-most peninsula in southwest Ireland.

She adored the house near the seaside village of Schull, and had gone there a few days before Christmas 1996.

Her body was found by a neighbour in a lane outside the home on the morning of 23 December that year.

She was dressed in her night clothes and had been beaten in the head with a concrete block.

Ian Bailey (R) arrives with his partner Jules Thomas at the Supreme Court in Dublin in 2012
Ian Bailey (R) arrives with his partner Jules Thomas at the Supreme Court in Dublin in 2012

At the time, Bailey was reportedly living in Liscaha, just a few miles away, where had set up a home with Welsh artist Jules Thomas.

He became a suspect, because of scratches on his arms – which he said he got while cutting down a Christmas tree – and an alleged history of domestic violence.

A local resident had also reported seeing a man not dissimilar from his description on a bridge near where the murder occurred, the Irish Times said.

No forensic evidence ever linked him to the scene.

Bailey’s lawyer, Dominique Tricaud, said the main appeals court in Paris has ruled there were “sufficient elements” to put the 60-year-old on trial for the killing.

He said his client, an English former freelance journalist, would be mounting a challenge to the ruling.

Bailey unsuccessfully tried to sue the Irish state in 2014 for the way the investigation was handled, though a court in December ordered that a partial retrial could go ahead.

A lawyer for the victim’s family, Laurent Pettiti, said: “It’s a relief for the family of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, even if they know that the trial won’t happen immediately and will probably take place without the suspect.

“The goal is that once there has been a trial and sentencing, Paris will push Dublin to finally extradite him.”

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