Ian Bailey dies on street near his home; suspect in infamous ‘Sophie’ murder

Ian Bailey dies on street near his home; suspect in infamous ‘Sophie’ murder

A man long suspected in an infamous Irish killing died Sunday on a street near his home. Ian Bailey was 66.

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In 2019, the Paris Criminal Court convicted him in absentia of the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and sentenced him to 25 years’ imprisonment. He was never extradited to France.

Bailey, a former journalist, denied involvement in the murder, which was examined in true-crime documentaries including Netflix’s “Sophie: A Murder in West Cork.”

On December 23, 1996, the 39-year-old woman was found bludgeoned to death near the gate of her vacation home near Toormore, at Ireland’s southwest tip. Toscan du Plantier was a TV producer who lived in Paris; she was spending a few days at the Irish home by herself and planned to return to France for Christmas with her husband and son.

Within days of the murder, police began questioning Bailey, who lived nearby with a girlfriend. He was arrested twice, in 1997 and 1998, but was never charged.

News of Bailey’s death emerged on Sunday, when his lawyer Frank Buttimer made a statement to the PA Media news agency.

Bailey reportedly collapsed on a block of shops in Bantry, a town about 20 miles from Toormore. Buttimer said Bailey had “a very severe heart condition.”

In interviews in recent years, Bailey blamed his poor helath on the stress of being accused in the murder case.

No one else has ever been charged over Toscan du Plantier’s death, and her family had 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.

At the time of the Paris trial, Buttimer told CNN that the murder conviction was a “grotesque miscarriage of justice.”

Despite insisting on his innocence, many locals said Bailey’s actions over the years created a cloud of suspicion, which continued to follow him around in West Cork for more than two decades.

In the years following his arrests, Bailey alleged he was wrongfully arrested and a victim of police corruption. In 2015, he 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.

Toscan du Plantier was married to Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a prominent film producer whose credits include “Cousin Cousine,” “A Nos Amours,” “Fanny and Alexander” and Robert Bresson’s last two movies. He had previously been married to actress Marie-Christine Barrault and had lived with Isabelle Huppert. He died in 2003.

Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s son from her first marriage, was 15 at the time of her death. Irish newspapers report he still owns the house where she died and visits occasionally with his family.