French filmmaker found murdered in Ireland

French filmmaker found murdered in Ireland

Sophie Toscan du Plantier, murdered on the night of  December 23, 1996  near Toormore, Schull, County Cork, Ireland, beaten to death outside of her holiday home.

Sophie was a French film producer and the wife of fellow film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier.

The number one and prime suspect in the case was and has always been one Ian Bailey, arrested twice for her murder but has yet to be convicted of actually murdering Sophie. Her case brought about a highly sought after extradition by the French police to extradite and question Mr. Ian Bailey.

A French magistrate issued a European Arrest Warrant for Ian in February of 2010, which of course Ian filed an appeal to. In March of 2012 an Irish court upheld the appeal stating the French actually had no intention of actually charging Ian. The Irish court also felt that the European Arrest Warrant prohibited surrendering Ian to France because the alleged offence occurred outside French territory.

Ian later filed civil actions against the Irish police which he subsequently lost.

Regardless of so much media attention being paid to Ian as the prime suspect, he alas was not the only suspect in the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

On 1/11/97 Marie Farrell, who with her husband owns a craft and ice cream shop west of Cork Village telephoned the Brandon Garda Station using a public phone box in Cork city to tell them that she saw a man by Kealfadda Bridge around 3am the night Sophie was murdered.

The intriguing thing about the call was that Marie did not use her real name. When she made the call she used the alias Fiona.

On 1/20/97 Chief Noel Smith of the West Cork Division issued a public appeal on Crimeline asking “Fiona” to contact them regarding her telephone call.

In return for that public appeal, Marie Farrell called the Brandon Garda Station again on 1/21/97, still using the alias “Fiona,” using a public phone box located in Leap which is west of Cork.

Then on 1/24/97, Marie Farrell made yet a third phone call still using the alias “Fiona” to tell gardia that she will not call into the Brandon Garda station to meet with investigators like they had requested.

But her mistake this time? She failed to make the call from a public phone box. She made it from her home which police traced in kind.

By all accounts Marie Farrell seems to be one of those individuals that relishes in gaining attention, she likes it, thrives on it and somehow manages to interject herself into situations having nothing to do with her all for the sole purpose of being sought after in some way.

She later accused a  Garda Sergeant Maurice Walsh exposed himself to her in the ladies toilets of Schull golf club while asking wasn’t fitting up Mr Bailey a turn on was made for the purpose of discrediting Sergeant Walsh.

She exhibits some mental instabilities, disturbing yes but, not entirely illegal, yet just enough to mislead police at times. It is not her direct intent to screw up or with an investigation. Her motives are deeply tied to her mental instabilities and are purely for personal gain.  

It was not until 2/4/1997 that investigators received a real, solid lead in the case, on that day Malachi Reid told investigators that he had previously gotten a ride home from Ian Bailey. During the ride together, Ian confessed that he had murdered Sophie telling Malachi that he “went up there with a rock and bashed her fucking brains out.”

2/10/97 Ian Bailey is arrested at his home on suspicions that he murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier, he is held and questioned, but was later released without being charged with anything.

Ian was freelance journalist who happened to mysteriously end up being one of the first individuals on the scene of her murder. He says to report on it, others say differently.

True, often times a killer will in fact revisit his victim, after the crime just to observe for his own selfish satisfaction.

Who was Sophie and why would anyone want her dead?

It later came to surface that Sophie led what some call a complex and secret life, for no one really knew her. She had also taken a lover which many believe her husband in fact knew about.

A French Artist by the name of Bruno Carbonnet had been her lover for well over a year. He describes her as both tough and fragile, an enigmatic and sophisticated woman with a “complicated” private life.

As you can imagine the “complicated” part of her life gave investigators more to digest in terms of who murdered her. Her lover was on the list of what some say is at least 10 suspects.

To further muddy the waters and cast doubt on investigators here, sometime around October 2010  former state prosecutor, Eamon Barnes claimed a garda tried to put pressure on his office in 1998 to bring a charge against Bailey.  

In all, the document that Eamon released in 2011 indicated that even drugs were offered to witnesses in an effort to implicate Ian as the murderer. It would seem that investigators decided to look at evidence that would only lead them back to Ian, that includes making up evidence had they not found any actual evidence that would point to Ian as the murderer.

Ian was on of the first on the scene because he lived nearby Sophie’s home in Cork.

What is known is that Sophie was beaten to death with a block outside of her home after having run from her killer. What is not clear is whether or not she knew her killer and willingly let him into her home for some time and at some point tried to flee him and was caught in the very spot her body was found in.

An actual time of death had never been established because her body was not examined by the state pathologist until the day after it had been discovered.

Some of her fingers had been broken, she had lacerations all over her arms, strips of her torn pj’s were found on barbed wire, and her face had been smashed in. Interestingly, hair and skin found beneath her nails only proved to be her own.

Blood that was found on the doorstep was never identified.

Sometimes appearances are grand in nature, what it appears to be, it is not.

Several  months after the murder, a bottle of wine was found in bushes near a sidewalk close to Sophie’s home. It was a rather expensive bottle of French wine which was unopened. According to one detective, it would have cost £60 or £70 at the time and had been in those bushes for quite some time. None of the local off-licences stocked it but it was for sale in airport duty-free shops.

One source close to the investigation said that, at the time, alcohol was often stolen from the drinks cabinets of empty holiday homes so someone could have broken into her home the night she was murdered or prior to that, maybe headed back to her home for more loot?

The smashing in of her face however is very violent. It says a lot about the killer and what he was either running from or trying to hide.

Ian for instance and forgive me for being rather blunt, Ian lacks the sophistication to commit such a crime. He is sloven in appearance which means that while he is strong enough to smash a woman’s face in, he isn’t quite up to par with having had to run after someone, then in turn fight them off as he attacked them. He is careless and clumsy, more buffoonish if you will. He would have undoubtedly left evidence of some kind behind that would have more directly tied him to the murder.

I lean towards Sophie not knowing her killer. She had no idea who it was, I also doubt that her killer went to her home for the sole purpose of killing her. I suspect that it was a robbery gone wrong.

The robber had been breaking into homes for quite some time and knew how not to leave evidence, cover his tracks if you will.  

Killers show up with props, this guy used a block that was at the property prior to him. He never intentionally planned to murder anyone that night. She caught him and both of them panicked, she ran and he gave chase.

Rather than knock her out, as more of an afterthought to the crime, he murdered her thus leaving no witness to describe him to authorities. Something many career criminals fear very much. Being known to a witness is just as good as being known to law enforcement so in an effort to both deter detection and prosecution they will just kill a witness who in turn becomes the victim of circumstance.

What more than likely happened to Sophie was that she happened upon the crime of someone robbing her, she fled, was caught by the robber who then turned brutal killer so that he would not be caught. She did not know her killer as the evidence clearly shows. The evidence also shows quite clearly, that the suspect knows how to cover his tracks, his intention all along was not to get caught.

Too much time was wasted on Ian

Malachi gave a statement that implicated Ian in the murder of Sophie. While Milachi’s statement may not be a lie, Ian still did not murder Sophie. I myself have been known to bait someone when seeking information. It could very well be that Ian in fact baited Malachi in an attempt to gain information about the crime or something else he had been working on. And that also, does not make Ian any more the killer than the neighbor who found Sophie’s body that morning.

Whatever the case, the killer is still unknown to investigators because so much time had been wasted on Ian as the killer.

It is a fact that this killer did time at some point for burglary or robbery. He is good at not getting caught because of that, so his time in prison was not kind to him or he simply has too much to lose if he goes back to prison.

That is the very reason for Sophie’s murder. The question is, can investigators go back and solve it with the little evidence they have that doesn’t point to Ian?

Cristal M Clark

@thecrimeshop

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