Updated at 7.47pm
By Southern Star reporter
IAN Bailey has been found guilty of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, in a court in Paris.
The verdict was announced earlier in Paris, where three judges of the Cour d’Assises in Paris heard evidence in the trial of the murder of French film producer, Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork over 20 years ago.
Bailey has been sentenced to 25 years in jail, in abstentia and a new arrest warrant is now to be issued.
The news of the verdict from Judge Frederique Aline and her colleagues, Judge Didier Forton and Judge Geraldine Detienne was met with a respectful silence but the momeht the judges rose from the bench, there were emotional scenes among Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family.
The family’s lawyer, Alain Spilliaert, who addressed the court for the family along with is colleagues Laurent Pettiti and Marie Dose, strongly defended the decision of the French justice system to proceed with the trial of Mr Bailey in absentia, saying it was a legitimate outcome to a credible trial process.
“The judgment was very emphatic and comprehensive – it addressed all the issues that have been raised by Ian Bailey over the years and dealt with in a very thorough way – a trial in absentia according to European laws is a valid process and can take place when a person refuses to attend.
“A trial in absentia is entirely in keeping with the presumption of innocence so it’s an entirely credible process – it’s a been long process after Mr Bailey made appeals to the Chambre d’Instruction and the Cour de Cassation so it’s not as if he did not have an opportunity to make his case to French justice.”
Mr Spilliaert said that the decision had been made to issue a new arrest warrant to the family and their legal advisors will wait and see with how that is received in Ireland and he said he was confident of success as he believed the situation had changed since 2012 when an extradition attempt failed.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s son, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud expressed satisfaction at the judgment of the Cour d’Assises in finding Ian Bailey guilty of his mother’s murder and he expressed confidence that France would succeed in having Mr Bailey extradited to serve the 25 year sentence imposed.
Speaking after the 35 minute long verdict was delivered by President of the Court, Judge Frederique Aline, Mr Baudey-Vignaud, a 38 year old father of two young children, was in no doubt but that the court had made the right decision and he praised the judgment for its comprehensive nature.
“The judgment is very clear – Ian Bailey killed my mother 22 years ago and the judges declare that Bailey has to go to jail for 25 years and so this was the first trial with a focus on the facts of the case and that is a first ever in either Ireland or France and they declare Ian Bailey the murderer.
“It is not a question, there is no longer any doubt – it is very emphatic so now we will attend to the next step and one day for sure, Ian Bailey, who killed my mother, will go to jail – I am no judge but the judge said that after 22 years of saying Ian Bailey was the killer, now we know and it’s been proven in law.”
“It is very important for us to take this step – we were convinced by all the fact nd the proof – the judges are professional judges and they said all the proofs were right, they are very clear and they have shown that by imposing a 25 year sentence which is a long sentence – it’s a big decision.”
Mr Baudey-Vignaud said he was confident that Mr Bailey would be extradited to France when the French authorities issue a new European Arrest Warrant for him as a convicted person, which would lead to another trial in France but one where Mr Bailey would be in the dock and would be defended.
“We will do a trial for sure and I am confident that he will be convicted again in a contested case of killing my mother,” said Mr Baudey-Vignaud who appealed to Ireland’s common humanity with France to recognise the French decision and extradite Mr Bailey.
Mr Bailey wasn’t taking calls from the media at his home in Schull this evening but his solicitor, Frank Buttimer said that he hoped to speak to him later but he (Mr Buttimer) believed that the decision by the Cour de’Assises was a “grotesque miscarriage of justice”.
The judges heard evidence given by several witnesses who attended in person, including Billy Fuller and Amanda Reed who travelled from West Cork, as well as a number of French witnesses, including friends and relatives of Ms Toscan du Plantier.
However, a total of 22 Irish witnesses that the court had listed to give evidence did not attend though it emerged that three of these are now deceased and in two of these cases, their statements to the gardai as part of the original garda investigation, were read into the evidence.
One witness who did not attend was former Sunday Tribune news editor, Helen Callanan who wrote to the court, criticising the short notice that was given to witnesses from Ireland to attend, pointing out that she feared that resultant inability of Irish witnesses to attend would affect the hearing’s credibility.
Among the other Irish witnesses who did not attend was Marie Farrell, who originally told gardai that she had seen Mr Bailey at Kealfadda Bridge about 2.6k from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s home on the night of December 23rd 1996 when she was murdered.
Ms Farrell later retracted that statement incriminating Mr Bailey, alleging she had been coerced into making it by gardai investigating the case and both Ms Farrell’s original inculpatory statement and her subsequent exculpatory statement were read into evidence.
Also read into evidence were garda memos of interview with Mr Bailey’s partner, Jules Thomas where she spoke about Mr Bailey having a premonition that something bad was going to happen as they returned to their home at the Prairie, Liscaha, Schull in the early hours of December 23rd 1996.
The judges also read into evidence garda memos of interviews with Mr Bailey following his arrest in February 1997 for questioning about the murder when he denied any knowledge of the killing and denied that he had ever met Ms Toscan du Plantier or knew her.
Mr Bailey, has repeatedly denied that he had any involvement in the murder of Ms Toscan du Plantier or that he ever made any admissions in relation to her death.
We'll have full coverage of the case in Paris in next week's Southern Star