Families are still grieving

June 26th, 2021 5:10 PM

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OVER the next few weeks we can expect to be bombarded with opinions and comments on a story that is now a quarter of a century old and very familiar to West Cork people everywhere – the 1996 murder of Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The story has never been far from the headlines – thanks to several lengthy and sometimes complicated court cases on related legal issues, including a dramatic libel case against several newspapers.

But now, as a result of a new book and two major TV series, the case is about to be debated and commented on in homes and offices all around the world.

The appetite for ‘true crime’ stories has been fed by streaming services like Sky boxsets and Netflix in recent years, so it was no wonder both media giants were in a race to get their individual efforts out to audiences to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Sophie’s death.

But while British and Irish Sky customers have been gorging on the story since last weekend, and up to 208m viewers will be able to view a different series on Netflix from next Wednesday, there is a real woman, a real family and a real suspect behind these slick productions.

There is no doubt that the individual elements in this story were what attracted film makers to this incredibly sad tragedy: a talented young Frenchwoman alone in her Irish coastal holiday home days before Christmas; her glamorous life back in France; a quiet country town shocked by a gruesome killing; the non-national suspect who was the first reporter on the scene; reports of mysterious sightings, later retracted; anonymous phone calls; dark diaries; a local police force inexperienced in murder investigations and the myriad twists and turns in the story ever after, with no conclusion for the bereaved family.

It was a storyteller’s dream – but a nightmare for everyone else involved, not least of all the people of Schull who by now must surely be weary of telling the almost-gothic tale.

Podcast producers Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde must surely feel like they opened a veritable can of worms with their ‘West Cork’ series on the Amazon-owned Audible platform some years ago – a series that quickly became one of Audible’s most popular.

They unleashed a global interest in a story that now means the Mizen area will forever be linked to this brutal killing. It was not their intention, but the expert way they forensically revealed the mystery of Sophie’s death left an indelible mark on anyone who listened to the 14 excellently-crafted episodes, not least of all film makers, it seems.

And as if two TV series and several books was not enough, the producers of Chernobyl have yet to film their TV version of the West Cork podcast itself, so there is more to come.

While the world is fascinated by horror stories and unsolved mysteries, there is at least one family in France that is still grieving and several in West Cork that have been marked forever by this real-life murder.

Let us not forget that. And if anyone has any information which can end that suffering and write the final chapter of this grisly saga, then now is surely the time to do just that.

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