Elite French police want to visit in weeks
AN ELITE team of French homicide detectives want to travel here "within weeks" to conclude a seven-year investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
The team, operating under Magistrate Patrick Gachon, want Ireland to immediately recommence full co-operation with the French authorities following the rejection by a High Court jury of the garda conspiracy claims levelled by Ian Bailey (57).
It is expected that the Gachon report will recommend a Paris-based prosecution, now likely to be staged in 2016.
A European Arrest Warrant for Mr Bailey, issued by the French in 2010, remains in place. As a result, he risks arrest if he ever leaves Ireland.
He could not even attend his mother's funeral in the UK two years ago amid fears of arrest.
The Herald has learned that if Ireland does not renew full co-operation, the French will consider a formal complaint to EuroJust, the agency that oversees judicial co-operation.
Such co-operation was suspended last May given the impending High Court case.
Mr Bailey, a Manchester-born freelance journalist, was twice arrested in connection with the death of Ms du Plantier (39) at Toormore outside Schull in west Cork on December 23, 1996.
He was released without charge on both occasions and, while protesting his innocence, also claimed attempts were made to "stitch (him) up".
Now the French want Ireland to resume "immediate and rigorous co-operation".
"Co-operation is very important between Ireland and France. We want to see every possible assistance provided for Magistrate Gachon so he can conclude his report," warned Alain Spilliaert, solicitor for Sophie's parents, Georges and Marguerite Bouniol.
"We want co-operation resumed on an immediate and rigorous basis. It has been suspended since May 2014."
Mr Spilliaert warned it has been "very difficult" for Sophie's elderly parents for the past 19 years with time now a crucial factor in the case.
The self-styled Association for the Truth about the Murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier are also demanding that Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald act to support Magistrate Gachon.
The Paris team have had full access to the garda file on the murder for seven years and have re-interviewed witnesses.
Once the French detectives conclude their work, Magistrate Gachon will finish his report and submit it to Paris prosecutors.
They will then submit it to the special Court d'Accusation which will decide whether a full Paris-based prosecution should take place.
Mr Bailey's legal team warned the French are determined to try him in absentia.