Dramatic new twist in Sophie case as gardai to visit family
GARDA 'cold case' detectives are to meet the family of slain French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier over their request for a full review of the murder case file.
The move came as French police dramatically postponed their final visit to Ireland to consider potentially new information in their own probe into the killing of the 39-year- old mother-of-one just two days before Christmas in 1996.
Sophie's family formally requested the Garda Serious Crime Review Team to undertake a full review in September.
The approach was made by Irish solicitor James MacGuill, on behalf of Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and the group set up to campaign for action on the 1996 murder, ATMSTP.
The formal request was made to the garda 'cold case' team boss, Det Supt Christy Mangan.
The meeting between gardai and representatives of Sophie's family will explore what specific areas may be involved in any such review. The French probe into the killing remains ongoing but has been delayed.
Paris-based detectives had been scheduled to travel to west Cork before Christmas to conduct interviews with witnesses listed in the original garda murder file.
However, the French magistrate who is leading the four-year probe, Patrick Gachon, has postponed the visit to Ireland until the new year to allow for the ongoing consideration of new material.
It's understood this may include new information about events in west Cork in 1996 -- specifically who Sophie may have met during visits to Ireland in the 12 months before her death.
Two witness statements are said to be of particular interest to French team.
Alain Spilliaert, lawyer for Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, confirmed the French detectives will not now travel to Ireland until early 2013.
"They will not go there until early next year -- it is unfortunate but that is the case," he said.
When asked whether the postponement may be linked to potentially new material he replied: "Perhaps. I do not know. But any new information would obviously be very welcome."
It is unclear whether the postponement of the French police visit will impact on Magistrate Gachon's timetable to recommend what action should follow his probe.
The Paris-based judge had sought the extradition of Ian Bailey (54) to France almost three years ago but the Supreme Court rejected that bid earlier this year.
Sophie's family have insisted they are still hopeful Mr Bailey will be tried in absentia in Paris by 2014.
Both Mr Bailey -- who has consistently maintained his innocence -- and his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, have predicted that the French authorities will press ahead with a trial in his absence.