herald

Monday 23 October 2017

Ian Bailey profile: Journalist, poet, gardener and murder suspect - remarkable life of man who became pariah

Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas leave the Four Courts in Dublin, after he lost a long-running lawsuit against the Irish state over allegations that detectives tried to frame him for an unsolved murder
Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas leave the Four Courts in Dublin, after he lost a long-running lawsuit against the Irish state over allegations that detectives tried to frame him for an unsolved murder
The French Investigation team that examined the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier visiting the scene of her death at Toormore , Goleen, West Cork
Sophie Toscan Du Plantier's home in Schull, West Cork

THREE times Ian Bailey (57) rolled the litigation dice in Ireland.

Three times the British freelance journalist lost - first in his sensational 2003 Cork Circuit Civil Court libel hearing, secondly in his 2007 libel case appeal to the High Court and, finally, in his High Court action against the State for wrongful arrest and garda conspiracy.

The most recent lasted for five months and the total legal costs it generated are now estimated at around €5m.

It is now unclear what future faces the author, poet, New Age gardener and bodhran player who has no known assets and no full-time employment in Ireland. In legal terms, Mr Bailey is a man of straw.

It is ironic that he first came to Ireland looking for a new start in life.

Ian Bailey was born in Manchester to middle-class parents in 1957. He attended Gloucester Grammar School before deciding on a career in journalism.

He trained in Gloucester where he eventually worked for five years for a freelance agency.

He then operated his own freelance agency in Cheltenham where his work appeared in a range of British publications from The Times, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph to The Sunday Mirror as well as regional radio and TV stations. He was based in Cheltenham for a total of five years.

He was married to a fellow journalist, Sara Limbrick, for five years. When the marriage failed, Mr Bailey tired of life in the UK and decided to start afresh in Ireland. He moved in 1991 to west Cork where he undertook odd jobs. He settled permanently in Schull in west Cork after a brief spell in Wicklow.

While working part-time in a fish factory in Schull he met Welsh-born artist Jules Thomas, when she called to buy fish.

In early 1992, they became an item and have been together since then.

During this time, Mr Bailey developed an interest in Irish music and culture and began referring to himself by the Gaelic version of his name, Eoin O Baille.

BODHRAN

He learned to play the bodhran, wrote poetry, visited Irish festivals on Cape Clear island and worked in the organic vegetable patch by Ms Thomas' home. He also worked as a New Age landscape gardener, modelling gardens using naturally occurring resources such as driftwood and sea rock.

In 1995, Mr Bailey began making efforts to resurrect his journalistic career, supplying items to both the Cork Examiner (now Irish Examiner) and The Southern Star.

When Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed on December 23, 1996, Mr Bailey supplied material in the following days to a host of Irish, British and French publications.

However, he was arrested on February 10, 1997, for questioning in relation to the killing but was released without charge.

He was arrested a second time, in January 1998, but was again released without charge. He repeatedly protested his innocence and claimed that "sinister attempts" were made to frame him for the crime.

He has not left Ireland since 1998. In 2001, he appeared before the district court in relation to an incident of domestic violence against Ms Thomas. Mr Bailey later spoke of his "deep shame" over an attack that resulted in Ms Thomas receiving medical treatment for facial injuries.

In 2003, he fought eight major libel actions against Irish and British newspapers over their coverage of the du Plantier case amid claims that they had effectively branded him as the murderer.

They were vehemently contested by the newspapers. He lost six of the eight actions but was successful in two, but Mr Bailey claimed he was now a pariah in west Cork.

Media reports of the sensational two-week hearing made headlines worldwide.

That libel trial heard that there were a total of three incidents of domestic violence by Mr Bailey against Ms Thomas, in one of which he struck her with a crutch.

He later blamed his actions on the combination of strong painkillers and alcohol. A High Court appeal taken by Mr Bailey three years later was settled without payment of damages before, at the request of the du Plantier family, Paris-based Magistrate Patrick Gachon opened a French inquiry into the killing in 2008.

exhumation

That move came after it was effectively admitted there was no prospect of any prosecution in Ireland. The new investigation included the exhumation of Ms du Plantier's remains in France, new forensic and DNA tests and access to the garda murder file.

Four years ago, French detectives made their first visit to Ireland to interview witnesses. Mr Gachon sought the extradition of Mr Bailey to France in 2011 but this was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court in 2012.

Mr Bailey's concern at the European Arrest Warrant issued by the French being enforced elsewhere prevented him attending his mother's funeral in the UK two years ago.

The freelance journalist has since qualified as a lawyer, having studied at University College Cork since 2007.

hnews@herald.ie

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