SOPHIE Toscan du Plantier was “suspicious” of a neighbour who tried to impress her with poetry, a court in Paris has heard.
She was battered to death with a blunt object outside her holiday home on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, Co Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.
Ian Bailey, a 62-year-old British man, was never tried for her murder in Ireland but was arrested twice in connection with her death. He vehemently denies being responsible and has called the Paris trial a ‘show trial’ which is set up to convict him in his absence.
Ms Toscan du Plantier was the third wife of celebrated cinematographer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, who was 16 years her senior, and friends said she had bought the cottage in West Cork to escape their busy life together.
Mr Bailey still lives in the close-knit community with his partner, Jules Thomas.
Authorities here have twice refused to extradite him to France and this week he is being tried in his absence at the Cour d’Assises in Paris, the highest criminal court in the region.
Today, the victim’s best friend Agnes Thomas said Ms Toscan du Plantier had asked her to join her on the brief trip to Ireland but she had been unable to go because of a birthday. “Perhaps if I had been there she would still be alive.”
Ms Thomas said she and Ms Toscan du Plantier would speak almost every day on the phone and she had described a man trying to recite poetry to her who had wanted to meet again. “She was suspicious of him and she didn’t want to see him,” she said.
Ms Thomas did not recall Sophie giving the man’s name. She said Ms Toscan du Plantier had thought he was “strange” rather than just being too forward.
Ms Thomas said she had only been to her friend’s holiday home once, saying the victim had loved the area.
“She loved being by the sea and she had this fascination with the beautiful view outside her house,” she said.
Ms Thomas said the victim’s husband rarely accompanied her because the house was very cold and drafty and he “liked comfort”.
She added that Ms Toscan du Plantier was committed to her marriage and she and her husband were planning on having a child together.
Gilbert Jacob, a close friend of Mr Toscan du Plantier who also worked in film, told the court he had spent a lot of time with the couple before the victim’s death.
He said: “At the time Toscan (Daniel Toscan du Plantier) had become a sort of ambassador for French cinema, he was extremely well known and extremely brilliant.
“Toscan went all over France, he knew people in high levels of government and everyone was interested in his career.”
He said Mr Toscan du Plantier had been attracted to her because she was the opposite of all the glamorous actresses and was not a “provocateur”.
The trial has been scheduled for one week, with a day off tomorrow, with the court due to return its verdict on Friday.
If Mr Bailey were to be extradited, he would be tried again by a jury and given the opportunity to mount a defence.