Latest twist as writer Ian Bailey faces 25 years in a French prison for socialite ‘murder’

HE had come to Dublin to be arrested for murder – yet flamboyant writer Ian Bailey also took the chance to sell copies of his latest poetry book.

The eccentric Englishman was trying to stay calm “in the eye of the hurricane” despite his fears he will die in a French prison over a murder he says he did not commit.

Writer Ian Bailey leaves Dublin High Court after they endorsed a European arrest warrant issued by a Paris court
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Writer Ian Bailey leaves Dublin High Court after it endorsed a European arrest warrant issued by a Paris court[/caption]

Bailey is accused of murdering socialite Sophie Toscan du Plantier 23 years ago
A French court convicted Bailey of murdering socialite Sophie Toscan du Plantier 23 years ago<img class="wp-image-10599315 size-thesun-article-image" src="https://www.thesun.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/NINTCHDBPICT000000055066-e1576882368755.jpg?strip=all&w=960" alt="Sophie had been staying at her holiday hideaway in West Cork, Ireland, at the time of her murder" width="960" height="681" />
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Sophie had been staying at her holiday hideaway in West Cork, Ireland, at the time of her murderManchester-born Bailey is facing possible extradition to Paris accused of murdering socialite Sophie Toscan du Plantier 23 years ago.

His new book of poems — called A John Wayne State Of Mind — offers an astonishing insight into his psyche after he was convicted of murdering Sophie by a French court in May.

Indeed, he is so dedicated to his craft that he cited it as the reason he ignored his own lawyer’s advice to stay silent after his arrest on Monday.

He said: “I’m choosing to ignore his gagging order on me not to comment because I’m a poet.”

His book includes one verse saying: “I’m white, rough and tough enough, And I don’t take no s***, From no low down bums, And that is why my amigos, You find me at this particular moment in time in . . .  A John Wayne State of Mind.”

Another verse from the book reads: “A thousand arrows they fired at me, And failed to kill the spirit.”

Bailey’s fresh arrest is the latest astonishing twist in this murder ­mystery that has divided public and legal opinion — and spawned a hit podcast and new documentary.

LOVES THE LIMELIGHT

Two days before Christmas 1996, the body of glamorous French TV producer Sophie was discovered near her remote Irish cottage in West Cork with her skull crushed.

As a local freelance journalist, ­Bailey filed reports over the days that followed which were uncanny in their grim detail. But over the years since then, the reporter very much became the story.

Although arrested twice in connection with the murder, ­Bailey was never charged by Irish prosecutors. Irish courts have also twice refused to extradite him to France.

But on Monday he was arrested and bailed after Dublin’s High Court endorsed a European arrest warrant issued by a Paris court.

Afterwards Bailey, 62, insisted: “I was expecting it. I anticipated it but I wasn’t under any mandatory obligation to come up to Dublin from West Cork but I chose to.

“I knew the tsunami would reach me at some point and I’ve been ­living literally through it on a sort of cliff edge from the end of May.

“I’ve been convicted of a crime that I have nothing to do with.”

Now on bail before his next extradition hearing on January 20, Bailey added he was well aware he may be jailed for the rest of his life.

He said: “I’m 62 years old and have a 25-year sentence hanging over me, so yes, it is a fear that I have.”

Locals in West Cork, where Sophie was killed and where Bailey still lives, say he loves the limelight.

That is clear from the critically acclaimed West Cork podcast, which features hours of often bizarre and self-promoting interviews with Bailey, who clearly loves the attention.

A film is now in the works from six-times Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan. The My Left Foot director was in court in Dublin as the judge endorsed the arrest ­warrant.

After the hearing Bailey went to a pub, where he quoted poetry to the assembled crowd.

He announced: “This is a line from a poem I wrote. I’m trying to stay calm in the eye of the hurricane. I’m trying to do that and I think I am.”

KEY DATES

Dec 23, 1996: Sophie’s body found outside West Cork holiday home.

Feb 10, 1997: Ian Bailey arrested after schoolboy witness said he’d admitted it. Jules Thomas also arrested. Both released without charge.

Jan 1998: Bailey arrested again and released without charge.

Jan 2002: Review of the Garda murder probe ordered.

Dec 2002: Sophie’s family launch civil action against Bailey for wrongful death, but later withdraw it.

April 2005: Witness who placed Bailey at the scene withdraws statement.

June 2008: New French probe sees Sophie’s remains exhumed. DPP recommends no prosecution. Garda file given to French authorities.

Feb 2010: France issues a European Arrest Warrant for Bailey, Supreme Court overturns it.

July 2016: France issues new arrest warrant. It is rejected by High Court.

Feb 2018: France announces Bailey will be tried for murder in his absence.

May 2019: Bailey found guilty and sentenced to 25 years by a Paris court. He will only go to jail if Ireland decides to extradite him.

In the foreword to his latest book he says: “In late May 2019 I was convicted of a crime, a ­murder most foul, which I had nothing to do with, in my absence in a court in Paris.

“I had long known this particular outcome and miscarriage of justice was almost certain to befall me. I was bonfired on a pyre of lies.”

What is certain is that the Irish police botched the investigation from the start.

Mum of one Sophie, 38, had bought her holiday home near idyllic Toormore on Ireland’s rocky West Cork coast in 1993.

Three miles up the road in ­Lissacaha, Bailey — who once ran a news agency in Cheltenham, Gloucs — lived with Welsh artist Jules Thomas after they moved in together in 1991.

Bailey, who has a history of drunken violence towards Jules, eked out a living selling the odd local news story, gardening and doing odd jobs.

In December 1996 Sophie went to Toormore alone, intending to spend a few days there before returning to Paris for Christmas.

KILLED ‘TO FURTHER HIS CAREER’

Today there is a Celtic cross with her name engraved on its base at the spot where her ­battered body was found in the lane snaking down from her ­cottage.

A woman living nearby had found her body there on the morning of December 23. Sophie was wearing walking boots with no socks, a white T-shirt and long johns which were snagged on some nearby barbed wire.

It appeared she had been trying to run away from her attacker the previous night.

Local police were out of their depth and failed to seal the crime scene. Although there was no forensic evidence linking Bailey to the murder, his uncanny scoops led to his arrest in February 1997.

The 6ft 4in Englishman hardly helped himself by telling a ­newspaper editor that he killed Sophie “to further his career”. Later he said his remark was simply “black humour”.

Alleged evidence against him included scratches and cuts on his hands, forearms and forehead which were said to have been caused by the victim during her fight for life.

He claimed the cuts were from a fall and the claws of three ­turkeys he had butchered.

A concrete slab covered in blood was found near to Sophie's body
A concrete slab covered in blood was found near to Sophie’s body

Sophie with son Pierre Louis as a baby
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Sophie with son Pierre Louis as a baby[/caption]

Pierre Louis believes Bailey killed his mother
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Pierre Louis believes Bailey killed his mother[/caption]

On the night of the murder Bailey is said to have woken at 4am and left his partner in bed.

He said he could not sleep and had gone to his garden shed to work on an article.

A witness said she had seen Bailey near the crime scene on the evening of the murder but later retracted her evidence, ­saying she had been pressured into implicating him by cops.

Bailey — who has always ­vehemently denied he had even met Sophie, let alone killed her — insists cops had tried to stitch him up.

The case against him later ­collapsed through “flawed” and “prejudicial” evidence.

A police ombudsman spent almost seven years investigating the case but in 2018 found no ­evidence that police deliberately falsified evidence.

However, they found 22 potential pieces of evidence had gone missing, including a blood-splattered gate from the murder scene and a black coat belonging to Bailey.

‘FLAWED’ INVESTIGATION

Then in May three French judges convicted him of Sophie’s murder and sentenced him to 25 years in jail. Prosecutors insisted Bailey had wanted to sleep with Sophie and became violent when she rebuffed his advances.

Yet much of the evidence used in the case was from the “flawed” Irish investigation.

Psychiatrist Michel La Rousse told the court at an earlier hearing that Sophie and her husband Daniel — boss of French film studios Gaumont — had an open marriage, and that the home in Ireland was her bolthole from the stress of Paris life.

La Rousse told how Daniel focused on his career while Sophie had an affair with a painter, and said that although she was not known to have had a lover in Ireland she “asked people to go there with her”.

Certainly Sophie was on her own on the day she died. She had called Daniel, promising to be home to spend Christmas with him and their 15-year-old son Pierre Louis. She never arrived.

Now the Irish High Court has fixed the extradition hearing for January 20. Bailey could finally be sent to Paris, where he would be allowed another trial at which he could defend himself.

Sophie’s son Pierre Louis, 38, said: “One day for sure, Ian Bailey, who killed my mother, will go to jail.”

He agreed Bailey was entitled to defend himself at another trial, but added: “I am confident he will be convicted again.”

Manchester-born Bailey sells pizza and his books on a market stall
John Delea

Manchester-born Bailey sells pizza and his books on a market stall[/caption]

Bailey has always vehemently denied he had even met Sophie
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Bailey has always vehemently denied he had even met Sophie[/caption]

A policeman stands at the road leading to Sophies holiday home the day after her murder
Getty – Contributor

A policeman stands at the road leading to Sophie’s holiday home the day after her murder[/caption]

But Dermot Walsh, from Kent Law School, said the case raises “profound concerns” of a miscarriage of justice.

Key witnesses have died and evidence such as the blood-stained gate is still missing.

Rosie Shelley, 49, a witness in the case who believed Bailey had confessed to the murder to her, died in Cork earlier this month.

She had told the court that she and her husband Richie met ­Bailey and Jules at a drinks party on New Year’s Eve 1998.

Mrs Shelley said in 2003: “It happened in the kitchen where I was waiting.

“He (Bailey) came out, he put his arms around Richie, he was crying and he said, ‘I did it, I did it’. It was very clear and succinct.”

Bailey denied ever making any such admissions, saying he was talking about what other people were saying about him.

Back in Toormore, Pierre Louis keeps his mother’s cottage exactly as it was when she left it.

Her coat still hangs on the back of the door and the tea she liked to drink is still on the shelf.

He said: “When I go back to Ireland, I don’t go back to a crime scene.

“The house is how she left it, and her spirit lives on there.”

Bailey has a history of drunken violence towards partner Jules Thomas
Courtpix

Bailey has a history of drunken violence towards partner Jules Thomas[/caption]

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Sophie and her husband Daniel had an open marriage[/caption]



 

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