A dramatic twist in one of Ireland’s most famous unsolved crimes has resulted in an extradition request from the French government for the chief suspect.
The ongoing Ian Bailey - Sophie Toscan Du Plantier investigation in Ireland was dramatically back in the limelight when the former English journalist was arrested late Friday night and faced a special sitting of the High Court in Dublin, as French authorities seek his extradition on foot of a European arrest warrant. He was granted bail while the request was being considered
Bailey was suspected in 1996 of murdering the French filmmaker on vacation in Schull, a small coastal village in West County Cork.
Du Plantier’s body was found brutally beaten. The Irish police investigation which followed the killing was one of the most highly publicized investigations in Irish policing history.
Although twice police arrested Bailey, a former journalist with several English broadsheets, he was never charged with the murder. The case remains unsolved.
Last month Justice Patrick Ganchon, a French magistrate, decided to grant a European Arrest Warrant for Mr. Bailey’s extradition to France to face charges in that jurisdiction.
Although the grounds upon which the warrant was granted remain unclear, it’s thought that the French magistrate issued the warrant based on apparent discrepancies between Bailey’s interrogation following the alleged murder itself, and evidence given by Bailey defamation proceedings which he instigated.
The issuance of the warrant has sparked widespread surprise and criticism in Ireland. Frank Buttimer, Mr. Bailey’s solicitor, has maintained that the warrant is completely illegal under Irish Constitutional Law.
Bailey was not charged by Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the State’s prosecution service, and so has no case to answer under Irish law.
The French, however, maintain that their investigation, which has run both parallel to and in co-operation with the Irish investigation, has unearthed information which Irish police weren’t aware of at the time the case was being investigated.
What is known is that there was close co-operation between Irish and French police, with the original Irish file being translated and handed over to the French.
It’s also been widely alleged by commentators on the case that the Irish police botched the investigation. This view was corroborated when it emerged that the police’s key witness said that she has been pressured into supplying evidence on behalf of the police.
Besides the suddenness and audacity of the French extradition attempt, there’s also been widespread surprise at the pace at which the Irish authorities have acted to honor the Warrant.
Despite criticisms of the Warrant’s validity from the Irish legal community, Justice Michael Part, at a special sitting of the High Court last Saturday, endorsed the Warrant, after he was furnished with an original copy from the French police.
The High Court had said that under recently enacted European legislation a facsimiled copy of the Warrant wasn’t enough to satisfy the new more stringent documentation requirements, and so postponed judgment until an original copy was provided.
Bailey, who was arrested just a day before the special sitting by the Irish police’s special Extradition Unit, was granted bail until next week. The former journalist, when confronted by the police extradition detectives, told them that the warrant was ‘illegal’ and that so was the arrest.
Du Plantier’s family has welcomed news of the warrant, commending the Irish authorities for acting so quickly following its issuance by Justice Ganchon. Bailey’s counsel, and some members of the legal profession, have rubbished the idea that Bailey can be extradited, maintaining that such a decision could only come from the Irish, and not the French, policing authorities.
Bailey is next due before the High Court next Wednesday.