AFP - The investigation into the unsolved 1996 murder in Ireland of the wife of a French film producer took a new turn on Thursday with news of an arrest warrant for an English freelance journalist.
Investigating magistrate Patrick Gachon issued a Europe-wide warrant on February 19 for the arrest of Ian Bailey in connection with the beating death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
Judicial authorities in Ireland confirmed receipt of the warrant on March 9, a source close to the investigation said.
Toscan de Plantier, 39, wife of Daniel Toscan de Plantier, head of the Gaumont film studios, was found beaten to death on December 23, 1996 outside her holiday home at Skull village, near Cork, in southwest Ireland.
Her body, in nightclothes and boots, was discovered by a neighbour on a lane. A preliminary inquest heard that she had suffered severe head and facial injuries caused by a blunt instrument. No murder weapon was ever found.
Bailey, who has twice been questioned by Irish police, but never charged for lack of evidence, has protested his innocence, while the victim's family has repeatedly called for investigators to make headway in the case.
"It is an important step even if Ian Bailey has several options and will no doubt take the matter to the Irish high court," Alain Spilliaert, a lawyer for the Toscan du Plantier family, told AFP, referring to the arrest warrant.
In Dublin, Bailey's lawyer Frank Buttimer said his client has no knowledge of the arrest warrant, notwithstanding questions from Irish news media. "It's something that is causing him some mystification," he added.
Toscan du Plantier's remains were exhumed in 2008 from a cemetery in southern France for court-ordered DNA testing.
Her husband -- whose productions included Peter Greenaway's 1989 film "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover" -- died in February 2003 while attending the Berlin film festival. He was 61.