ON the 25th anniversary of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, her uncle has said her family does not hold strong hopes for justice.
Speaking from his home in France, Jean-Pierre Gazeau said that although the family understands there is currently a garda review of the case underway, they do not want to get their hopes up.
“Maybe there will be new developments soon, but anyway, we do not have strong hope, because so many [times we had] information which would give us some hope and afterwards it was a big deception.
“At the moment we have the kind of expectation that is in some sense neutral. We don’t want to have rogue hope,” Monsieur Gazeau said.
French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found beaten to death outside her holiday home in Tourmore, Schull, Co Cork, on December 23, 1996.
British journalist Ian Bailey, who soon became, in his own words, the main suspect, has always denied any involvement in Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder.
He was arrested twice, but no charges were brought, as the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) found there was insufficient evidence against him.
In 2019, Mr Bailey was tried and convicted in his absence in Paris, and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In 2020, the Irish High Court ruled that Mr Bailey could not be extradited to France, and the State did not appeal that finding.
The 2018 podcast West Cork helped to spark global interest in the case, and this year alone saw the release of a book, and separate documentary series on both Sky and Netflix.
Speaking to The Echo, Monsieur Gazeau said that although friends have planned a remembrance of Ms Toscan du Plantier, the family did not intend to have a special event to mark the 25th anniversary of her murder.
“Sophie is always present,” he said.
“This will be a special time, in a terrible way, 25 years exactly after her death, but we do not want to have any special event.
“We had a special event in 2008, on the scene, we spent the night, family, friends, we went to Cork, to Schull, the night December 22-23, but I think it was enough to do that only once.”
Monsieur Gazeau recalled the first time he met his niece, in 1957, when he was almost 12.
“I always remember this little baby when I saw her in July in Paris, she had red hair. Afterwards, I wasn’t living in Paris, I was living in Lozère, in a place called Marvejols, and from time to time, Sophie was visiting us, but then my sister asked my mother to take care of Sophie.
“I was a teenager, and I remember this little girl, very, very attentive to other persons, with very blue eyes,” he said.
He remembered her as an adult, a creative woman who worked as a film producer, and he said he had been thinking a lot about her on a recent trip to Cameroon.
“I was remembering her, because she produced a very nice documentary for the channel ARTÉ in France, about African art.”
The documentary was well-received, he said, especially by Jacques Chirac, the then-President of France, who loved African art, and he wrote a letter of congratulations to Ms Toscan du Plantier.
Monsieur Gazeau said that while Ms Toscan du Plantier’s family was critical of the Irish State for its handling of her murder, they had great affection for the people of Ireland.
“Do you know Sophie was in love?” Monsieur Gazeau asked, before adding: “Totally in love with Ireland.
“She loved Ireland, and we love Ireland.”
Retired Chief Superintendent Dermot Dwyer, who investigated the case, told The Echo that he still has hopes it will be resolved.
“All I can say is I felt then and now that the matter was properly investigated by the gardaí at the time,” Mr Dwyer said.
“It’s awful for the family, both now and over the years, that the matter hasn’t been dealt with so that they can have some peace of mind.”
Sam Bungey, who, with his wife Jennifer Forde, made the podcast West Cork, said their thoughts were with Sophie’s family at this time, and he appeared to criticise some sensationalist coverage.
“The only thing that serves Sophie is accurate and honest reporting.
“That Sophie’s family and friends are still left to endure the open-endedness of this investigation after 25 years is difficult to imagine,” he said.
Ian Bailey referred The Echo to his solicitor, Frank Buttimer, saying: “Out of respect for the family, I am making no comment, and I am totally sympathetic to their plight.”
Mr Buttimer reiterated that his client would not be making any comment.