Briton accused of Frenchwoman's Irish murder risks 30 years jail

Paris (AFP) –


French prosecutors on Friday asked a Paris court to jail for 30 years a British man accused of the 1996 killing of a French woman in Ireland, though it is uncertain he will serve any time if convicted.

Ian Bailey, a 62-year-old former freelance journalist, has long denied killing Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the wife of a prominent French film producer, at her holiday home in County Cork in southwest Ireland.

The verdict in the trial, which got under way on Monday, is expected later Friday. But Bailey remains in Ireland and Dublin has rejected previous requests to extradite him.

Injuries to her hands showed that Toscan du Plantier had struggled to defend herself, and a large rock and a bloodstained concrete block were found near her body.

Bailey, who lived near the house, was found with scratches afterwards which he attributed to a Christmas tree and cutting up a turkey for dinner.

The Irish government has refused to send Bailey to stand trial, saying he was twice arrested for questioning by Irish police but never charged for lack of sufficient evidence.

It has also cited a lack of an extradition agreement with France, which moved ahead with a trial following a complaint by the family of the victim in 1997.

Asking for the 30-year jail term, prosecutor Jean-Pierre Bonthoux also requested that the court issued a new arrest warrant for Bailey.

He said the court should hand out an "exemplary conviction" for a "barbaric crime committed against a woman... who no doubt endured three minutes of terror."

At the trial this week, the three judges hearing the case were told that Bailey subsequently gave details of the crime that had not been disclosed to the press in his own reporting.

An editor at The Sunday Tribune newspaper in Ireland who had employed Bailey to write about the murder, sent a statement to the court alleging that Bailey had told her he had killed Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his journalism career.

- 'Murderous rage' -

A second witness, Bill Fuller, a cook and former friend of Bailey, told the court that the suspect had confessed to him in an odd conversation during which he referred to himself in the second person.

"It's you who killed her," Fuller remembered Bailey saying, adding that Bailey had been sexually attracted to Toscan du Plantier and often talked about himself in the second person.

"You went to her house at 2am to try your luck. You scared her and to calm her down you hit her, but it went too far," Fuller quoted Bailey as saying, according to remarks relayed by the French court translator.

"You have absolutely everything you need to convict him: the victim's wounds, the wounds on the killer, his incoherent account of what he was doing, the information he gave before anyone else," a lawyer for the victim's family, Marie Dose, told the court on Wednesday.

"And you have the sexual motive: He was obsessed with her, he wrote it down on page after page in his notebooks," Dose said.

"He had been drinking, it was a full moon, he was excited," she said, but when his advances were refused, "he went into a murderous rage".

Toscan du Plantier was 39 when she was murdered. Her husband Daniel Toscan du Plantier, the former director-general of the Gaumont Film Company, died in 2003.

But her parents, son and other people close to her were present for the trial.

"I can only regret that the defendant is not here today," said her son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, accusing Bailey of a "very great lack of courage".

A lawyer for Bailey, who now sells pizzas in the Irish village of Schull where the murder took place, has called the French trial a "judicial error".