PARIS (Reuters) – Twenty-two years after the battered body of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found near her holiday home in Ireland, the murder trial of suspect Ian Bailey will begin in France on Monday.
Neither Bailey nor his lawyers will attend proceedings, his lawyers said. Bailey, who is British, says he is innocent and Ireland’s Supreme Court has ruled he cannot be extradited.
Toscan du Plantier, whose husband Daniel was a leading producer and worked with renowned film-makers including Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, was killed while on holiday in the small coastal village of Schull, in southwestern Ireland, in December 1996.
Her murder shocked Ireland and cast a shadow over the idyllic rural setting of Schull, a popular hideaway for bohemian English, French and German expatriates.
Bailey’s lawyers said his abrasive personality, as well as his claims to have had information about the murder, contributed to the journalist and poet ending up being suspected of murder.
“We think a judicial mistake is unfurling before us. Ian Bailey has been presumed guilty for the past 22 years,” his French lawyer Dominique Tricaud told journalists in Paris.
“He exasperated everyone and he certainly has played a part in finding himself the main suspect.” But there was no doubt Bailey was an innocent man, he added.
Under French law, a person suspected of murdering a French citizen in another jurisdiction can be tried in France.
Bailey was arrested twice by Ireland’s police in connection with Toscan du Plantier’s death, but was never charged there.
Ireland’s Supreme Court refused his extradition on the grounds that France had at the time not taken the decision to send Bailey to trial.
Bailey’s Irish lawyer, Frank Buttimer, said the French trial demonstrated a lack of respect for the Irish courts. “What’s happening isn’t fair,” he said.
Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Toby Chopra