CORK, Ireland, Jan 19 (AFP) – The family of a French film producer murdered along a country road in Ireland in 1996 said Monday they would file a civil case against a journalist named in British newspapers as her killer.
The journalist, Ian Bailey, was awarded a total of EUR 8,000 (nearly USD 10,000) from The Sun and The Mirror tabloids for alleging that he had beaten his ex-wife.
But in a ruling Monday, judge Patrick Moran rejected Bailey’s key allegation that he had been libelled by no less than eight newspapers in Britain and Ireland when they named him as the killer of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.
That opened the way for her family to announce that they would launch a civil case against the British journalist, after Irish prosecutors decided not to press criminal charges against him.
“The defamation (of Bailey) was found to have nothing to do with what was published relating to the murder of Sophie,” said the family in a statement given to AFP.
“It is our intention now to proceed with our civil High Court proceedings against Ian Bailey, seeking justice,” it said.
Toscan du Plantier, wife of the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, the former chief of France’s Gaumont film studios, was 39 when she was found beaten to death just before Christmas 1996.
Her body, clad in a simple night dress, was found along a country road next to her cottage near the Irish village of Skull, in a picturesque area of County Cork that is popular with celebrities.
Bailey, 46, a British national who lives in the area, was twice detained by Irish police for questioning.
His libel case involved 10 days of hearings, with several people testifying that Bailey had told them at a New Year’s Eve party that he was the killer – a claim that the judge put down to self-aggrandizement.
“He was looking for notoriety, self-publicity and the confession was probably drink-induced,” the judge said.
The libel trial was also told that Bailey had told a 14-year-old boy who hitched a ride in his car that he had “beat her brains out with a rock”.
“That was a form of bravado on Mr Bailey’s part,” the judge concluded.
Bailey was awarded EUR 4,000 in damages from The Sun, and the same amount from The Mirror, not because both tabloids said he was the murderer, but because they alleged that he had beaten his ex-wife.
The other defendants in Bailey’s defamation case were the Irish newspapers Irish Star and Sunday Independent, and Britain’s Daily Telegraph, Independent on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times.
Daniel Toscan du Plantier oversaw the making of such classics as Ingmar Bergman’s “Fanny and Alexander,” Federico Fellini’s “City of Women” and Francois Truffaut’s “The Last Metro”.
He remarried in 1998, and died in February last year while attending the Berlin film festival.
Subject: France news