Son says Frenchwoman murdered in Ireland craved ‘simplicity of life’

The son of a Frenchwoman murdered in West Cork 23 years ago has described her as a loving woman who craved the simplicity of life in Ireland.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was brutally killed outside Schull two days before Christmas in 1996.

She was the wife of famous director Daniel Toscan du Plantier, and the case is one of the country’s most famous unsolved murders.

The gardai’s main suspect, 62-year-old Ian Bailey, was never tried in Ireland amid allegations of incompetence and corruption against local investigators.

Ian Bailey court case
Ian Bailey court case

Bailey, who lived three kilometres from the victim, was arrested twice in connection with the murder but was never charged.

At least six people claim he has confessed to the killing, but no forensic evidence was ever found to link him to the crime.

The only witness to put him close to the scene at the time of Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death later retracted her evidence, claiming she had been both groomed and bullied by detectives into giving false evidence.

Following a long battle for justice by the victim’s family, Bailey is now being tried in his absence at the Cour D’Assises in Paris – France’s highest criminal court.

Ian Bailey court case
Ian Bailey court case

At the conclusion of three days of evidence, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud – Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son from a previous marriage – was given the opportunity to talk about his mother.

He said: “I want it to be remembered the love this person brought and the regard that everyone who knew her had for her.

“She was someone who didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone.”

Mr Baudey-Vignaud‘s parents divorced when he was very young and he was largely raised by his mother.

He said: “There was a large part of my life when I was alone with her – we shared the same apartment, the same room – and we knew each other well. She was someone who didn’t want only a life of ease.

“She was a woman who was passionate and a woman who was intelligent.”

He said his mother’s decision to buy her holiday home in West Cork reflected her love of the wilderness and of simplicity.

He added that the house itself reflected her personality: “It was simple but it was comfortable.”

Describing her relationship with his step-father, who he still nicknames “Toscan”, he said: “He was such a strong personality. They were both vibrant people – full of life.

“They had a loving relationship that was both passionate and romantic and like everyone they had their ups and downs.”

He said that his mother did not go to Ireland to escape her husband, but because she sometimes needed to escape their glamorous and very public life.

Ian Bailey lawsuit
Ian Bailey lawsuit

His mother and the director married when he was around four years old and she was his third wife, but he said: “This [relationship] was not just an attraction. It was something that was very profound.”

Bailey’s lawyers did not attend, but a member of his legal team was sitting in the public gallery taking notes.

Mr Baudey-Vignaud hit out at Bailey for his “lack of courage” for choosing not to defend himself.

The family still own the cottage where Ms Toscan du Plantier was killed, and Mr Baudey-Vignaud said the court had a “duty of justice” to his children to ensure they could feel safe there.

Ms Toscan du Plantier’s brother Bertrand Bouniol and her aunt Marie-Madeline Opalka also shared their memories of her.

Ms Opalka said: “She should be here now walking free. It’s important that justice is done.”

Ireland has twice refused to comply with a European arrest warrant and extradite Bailey.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder
Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder

The case has seen many twists over the years, including Bailey bringing a successful defamation case against newspapers in 2014.

The French authorities started their own investigation in 2008 – interviewing 28 West Cork locals and exhuming the victim’s body in the hope of finding further forensic evidence.

The case is due to be decided by a judge and two professional magistrates on Friday after hearing just three days of evidence.

Bailey has branded the case in France a “show trial” but if he were to be convicted and then extradited, he would be tried again by a jury and given the opportunity to mount a defence.

The case can be seen as another means of bringing pressure to bear on Ireland to hand over the defendant.