Paris court finds journalist guilty in producer’s 1996 murder

A French court has found a British former journalist guilty of murdering French television producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier in southwest Ireland in 1996.

Ian Bailey was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 25 years by a three-judge panel at the Paris Criminal Court on Friday. It is unlikely that he will serve the sentence, as he lives in Ireland, which has twice refused a French extradition request. The Paris court has now issued a new warrant for his arrest.

Bailey’s Irish solicitor Frank Buttimer described the trial as “a rubber-stamping exercise of a predetermined position that Bailey was guilty,” and told CNN that the ruling was a “grotesque miscarriage of justice … This was not a trial in the sense that anyone understands it.”

Bailey has denied involvement in Toscan du Plantier’s death. CNN has reached out to him for comment.

A spokesperson from Ireland’s Department of Justice and Equality told CNN that they would not comment on individual cases.

Two decades of questions

Thirty-nine-year-old Toscan du Plantier was found bludgeoned to death on Dec. 23, 1996, near the gate of her holiday home near Toormore, in the country’s West Cork region. Police found some 50 wounds on her body.

Days after her murder, local police began questioning Bailey, who lived nearby and had been tasked with reporting on the murder for a national paper. He was twice arrested: first in February 1997 and then again in January 1998.

No forensic evidence linked Bailey to the scene of the crime, and he was released without charge.

The 62-year-old, who has lived in Ireland for nearly three decades, has long denied any involvement in Toscan du Plantier’s death.

His actions throughout the investigation, however, raised questions about his alleged involvement.

Weeks after the murder, Bailey’s editor at the now defunct Sunday Tribune told police that he told her that he killed Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his career. According to police documents Bailey admitted it but said it was a joke.

A file from the Irish Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution also revealed other alleged informal admissions by Bailey, but noted that some of those statements were unreliable and that Bailey has always held a public position of innocence.

In the years following his arrests, Bailey alleged he was wrongfully arrested and a victim of police corruption.

In 2015, Bailey lost a civil action in the High Court on those claims. A subsequent review by the Irish policing watchdog found problems in the way that Bailey’s arrest was handled, but concluded in 2018 that there was no evidence of police corruption.

No one else has been charged for Toscan du Plantier’s death as the years have passed. Toscan du Plantier’s family has long pushed for Bailey to be brought to trial in France.

Under French law, authorities can investigate crimes against French citizens committed outside of its borders, although they cannot insist that witnesses travel for questioning.

In Paris this week, the court heard testimony from seven witnesses who flew from Ireland and a number of French witnesses, including friends and family of Toscan du Plantier.

Antoine Crouin reported from Paris while CNN’s Kara Fox reported and wrote from Ireland.