THE son of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, who was murdered in West Cork 23 years ago, has described her as a loving woman who craved the simplicity of life in Ireland.
Ms du Plantier was brutally killed outside Schull two days before Christmas in 1996.
The gardaí’s main suspect, 62-year-old Ian Bailey, was never tried in Ireland for the crime and vehemently denies any involvement.
Mr Bailey, who lived 3km from the victim, was arrested twice in connection with the murder but was never charged.
The only witness to put him close to the scene at the time of Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death later retracted her evidence.
Following a long battle for justice by Sophie’s family, Bailey is now being tried in his absence at the Cour D’Assises in Paris - France’s highest criminal court.
Mr Bailey has called it a ‘show trial’ that is set up to convict him.
At the conclusion of three days of evidence, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud — Ms Toscan du Plantier’s son from a previous marriage — was given the opportunity to talk about his mother.
He said: “I want it to be remembered the love this person brought and the regard that everyone who knew her had for her.
“She was someone who didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone.”
Mr Baudey-Vignaud’s parents divorced when he was very young and he was largely raised by his mother.
He said: “There was a large part of my life when I was alone with her — we shared the same apartment, the same room — and we knew each other well. She was someone who didn’t want only a life of ease.
“She was a woman who was passionate and a woman who was intelligent.”
He said his mother’s decision to buy a holiday home in West Cork reflected her love of the wilderness and of simplicity.
He added that the house itself reflected her personality: “It was simple but it was comfortable.”
Describing her relationship with his stepfather, who he still nicknames “Toscan”, he said: “He was such a strong personality. They were both vibrant people - full of life.
“They had a loving relationship that was both passionate and romantic and like everyone, they had their ups and downs.”
He said his mother did not go to Ireland to escape her husband, but because she sometimes needed to escape their glamorous and very public life.
Ireland has twice refused to comply with a European arrest warrant and extradite Bailey.
The French authorities started their own investigation in 2008 — interviewing 28 west Cork locals and exhuming the victim’s body in the hope of finding further forensic evidence.
The case is due to be decided by a judge and two professional magistrates tomorrow after hearing just three days of evidence.