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West Cork Podcast review - Episode 3: Sophie Buoniol

May 4th, 2021 1:00 PM

By Jack McCarron

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Spoiler Alert! This review contains spoilers. So if you haven’t listened to West Cork yet and are intending to do so - stop reading now!

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Another week, another headline loosely related to a quarter of a century old murder investigation.

Last week it was the news that the chief suspect in Sophie Toscan du Plantier's murder had seen a 30-year relationship end.

This week it was that Sophie's former Toormore neighbour was selling her home.

The story, which appeared on Buzz.ie, reported that Shirley Forster is selling the two-bedroom farmhouse she shared with her late husband Alfie Lyons.

In episode two of West Cork we learned that it was Shirley who actually discovered Sophie's brutally battered body on Christmas Eve 1996.

One has to wonder how Ms Forster feels about her name being associated with Sophie's murder in perpetuity.

The irony is not lost on me that I am fuelling this association by committing these words to the world wide web.

But even still, one has to wonder.

In the second episode Sam Bungey also makes a passing reference to this line of thinking when he says: 'when you think about them (Shirley and Alfie) picking a place as remote as this (Toormore) and calling it home it's kind of ridiculous that they ended up with an international homicide investigation on their doorstep.'

Shirley and Alfie also ended up being referenced in an internationally renowned podcast series, an upcoming documentary from six-time Oscar nominee Jim Sheridan and a soon to be released Netflix special.

That's all pretty ridiculous to have to live with too.

I for one hope Shirley gets a brilliant price for their beautiful home.

Now, onto episode three!

Episode 3: Sophie Buoniol

Something I have always been guilty of when chatting to people about the murder this podcast is based on and the subsequent fall out is to ignore the victim of this brutal crime.

And I’m not alone in that.

We have a tendency in the media to spend much more time asking questions about male murderers than focusing on their female victims and who they were.

Think about the Graham Dwyer case for a moment. Can you remember his victim’s name?

What about deputy principal Alan Hawe? What was his wife’s profession?

I even have a Google Alert set up to notify me any time an Irish newspaper references the chief suspect from this case.

I’m sorry to say I do not get the same alert when Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s name appears.

Episode 3: Sophie Buoniol shines light on this failing while also attempting to right this systemic wrong by giving us a much more rounded picture of who the victim of this brutal murder was was.

In the first moments of episode three we learn that Sophie Toscan du Plantier, or Sophie Buoniol (her maiden name) as she was known to friends in West Cork, was an accomplished TV producer.

We discover what drew Sophie to West Cork in the first place and that most of the tabloid rabble around the time of her death was unfounded.

We also learn that she was in West Cork on her own at the time of her murder while her son and husband remained in France.

What struck me was the tone being used by the reporter on the scene.

There is, to my ear anyway, a hint of victim blaming afoot. This theme is explored throughout the episode.

I'm not going to sit here pretending I wasn't curious to find out what a 39-year-old married French mother was doing in the back of beyond on her own two days before Christmas but I'd hazard a guess that if Sophie was here to answer that question she'd probably tell me to mind my own business.

A familiar voice also pops up in the early stages of episode three, casting aspersions about Sophie’s love life and the different men she may or may not have been in relationships with.

It’s almost as though this journalist, who we had already met in episode two, was actively trying to sully the name of the long dead filmmaker when interviewed for the series.

Episode three is also when we first meet Sophie's son Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud.

When asked by Jennifer what sort of a person Sophie was to him, Pierre simply replies: 'She was my mother'.

Not a lot more needs to be said, but thankfully episode three is 34 minutes long and is essential listening for anyone who wants to get to know Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

For what it's worth Clodagh Hawe neé Coll was a schoolteacher and Elaine O'Hara was the victim of convicted murderer, Bandon man Graham Dwyer.

Our review of Episode 4: Killer among us is available here.

If you’d like to get in touch with your own observations, theories or concerns about the West Cork Podcast you can email us at [email protected] or contact me directly on Twitter or Instagram @jayburgkk.

Read the review of Episode 2: The Back of Beyond here.

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