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Ian Bailey, suspect in one of Ireland’s most notorious murders, dies aged 66 | Ireland


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Former journalist had lived in public eye for almost 30 years as prime suspect in 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier

Ian Bailey, an English former journalist who was the prime suspect in one of Ireland’s most notorious murders, has died near his home in Bantry, County Cork, at the age of 66. He suffered a heart attack on Sunday.

Bailey had lived in the public eye for almost three decades as the main suspect in the 1996 murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French filmmaker who was battered to death near her holiday home in West Cork.

Police arrested Bailey twice but prosecutors did not charge him, citing insufficient evidence, leaving the crime unresolved and Bailey as an enigmatic protagonist in a cottage industry of true crime books, documentaries and podcasts.

French extradition attempts and a European arrest warrant deterred Bailey – who protested his innocence – from leaving Ireland, where he was a polarising figure. Many were convinced of his guilt, while others considered him a victim of injustice.

“He suffered a deep and grievous wrong at the hands of the Irish state,” said Frank Buttimer, a solicitor who represented Bailey. “It shaped his life for the past 27 years. It took any form of normal existence away from him. He became extraordinary because of what happened to him.”

Bailey had been unwell with a heart condition and had a heart attack on a street in Bantry on Sunday afternoon, prompting unsuccessful resuscitation attempts and a declaration of death at Bantry hospital, said Buttimer. “Time caught up with him in the end.”

Bailey separated from his partner two years ago and was unable to visit his only relative, a sister in Britain, for fear of arrest, said the solicitor. “I imagine his death was sad and somewhat lonely. He died a prisoner in Ireland.”

For Toscan du Plantier’s family, the death extinguished hope of extraditing Bailey to France, where a court sentenced him in absentia in 2019 to 25 years for the murder, and of ever finding justice from the police investigation. “We fear the cold case review team may not conclude its work,” the victim’s uncle, Jean Pierre Gazeau, told the Irish Times.

Bailey grew up in Gloucestershire and worked as a freelance journalist in the 1980s, filing stories for the Sunday Times, before moving to West Cork, a haven for bohemian expatriates, where he dabbled as a poet and labourer.

Toscan du Plantier, a 39-year-old film producer and mother, was attacked outside her holiday home on 23 December 1996. Bailey, who lived nearby, filed scoops about the case to newspapers, only to become the story himself when he was arrested. Detectives said he had opportunity, scratch marks and a record of domestic violence, but there was no forensic evidence and a witness who said she saw him that night retracted her testimony.

Bailey sued newspapers for libel and the Irish state for wrongful arrest, alleging that the police tried to frame him, but he lost the actions, leaving him in limbo and struggling to make a living selling pizzas and writing poetry.

He collaborated in the podcast series West Cork, which spawned a Netflix series, and Murder at the Cottage, a Sky documentary series made by Jim Sheridan.

Bailey told the Guardian in 2019 that he “stayed sane” through poetry, carpentry, meditation and singing, and that he was happy to stay in Ireland. “Hopefully I’ll be leaving in a coffin rather than on a plane in handcuffs,” he said.



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