British suspect absent for Paris trial over 1996 murder in Ireland

Paris (AFP) –


Twenty-two years after the savage murder of the wife of a celebrated French film producer in Ireland, a trial gets under way in Paris on Monday, but with the British suspect absent and unrepresented.

Ian Bailey, a 62-year-old former freelance journalist, denies killing Sophie Toscan du Plantier on December 23 1996, and "will not be present, or represented" in court on Monday, his lawyers Dominique Tricaud and Franck Buttimer told reporters.

The Irish government has refused to extradite Bailey, who will therefore be judged in absentia.

The parents, son and other people close to the victim, will however be present for the trial.

Toscan du Plantier, who was the 39-year-old wife of film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, was found beaten to death at her holiday home in County Cork in southwest Ireland. Injuries to her hands showed that she had struggled to defend herself.

Near her body was found a large rock and bloodstained concrete block.

Bailey has long lived in Ireland near the home where she was staying. He was twice arrested for questioning by Irish police but never charged.

"This case, even in the absence of the accused, will take place and the work of justice will be done," said Marie Dose, a lawyer for the family

The victim's husband Daniel Toscan du Plantier, former director-general of the Gaumont Film Company, died in 2003.

Despite the lack of Bailey's DNA at the scene of the crime, the British man soon became the main suspect, partly due to scratches on his arms and forehead which he attributed to dealing with a Christmas tree and cutting up a turkey for dinner.

French authorities issued warrants for Bailey's arrest in 2010 and 2016, but Dublin refused both requests, citing the lack of a reciprocal extradition deal between the two countries.

If found guilty Bailey could face a 30-year jail sentence and France could again seek his extradition which would then be "difficult to refuse", said Dose.

On the basis that Irish justice has found no case against Bailey, who these days sells pizzas in the southwest Ireland village of Schull where the murder occurred, his lawyers spoke of "a judicial error" in France, adding that their client had "already been condemned" there.

For the family's lawyer Dose, Bailey is staying away from the French court "because he is afraid of being sentenced and with good reason".

The verdict in the case is expected to be handed down on Friday.