Who is Ian Bailey? Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder suspect

Bailey is the prime suspect in Netflix documentary Sophie: A Murder In West Cork.

Ian Bailey - Sophie: A Murder In West Cork

New Netflix true crime documentary series Sophie: A Murder In West Cork revisits a murder case that has divided opinion in France and Ireland since 1996.

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French woman Sophie Toscan du Plantier was found dead outside her holiday cottage in Schull, West Cork in Ireland, in December 1996, having been beaten to death. As yet, no one has been imprisoned for her murder.

The new three-part documentary series follows the investigation into her brutal murder, and features news footage, police reports and interviews with her family, friends, police investigators and Schull residents – including Ian Bailey, a local journalist who reported on the crime.

However, by the end of the first episode, Ian Bailey, a British freelance reporter turned poet is the police’s prime suspect in the case, and Sophie’s family suspect that he is the man who killed her.

Who is Ian Bailey?

Ian Bailey is a 64-year-old British writer originally from Manchester, who has lived in Ireland since 1991. At the time of Sophie’s murder he was living a few miles away from her home with his partner, artist Jules Thomas.

Bailey first became a suspect two weeks after Sophie’s death, when a woman made an anonymous phone call to the police saying she had seen a man resembling Bailey acting strangely on a bridge near to Sophie’s home on the night of her murder.

Reports at the time stated that, when arrested, Bailey had deep scratches on his arms. Later, a local schoolboy gave a statement to police saying Bailey had told him that he had killed Sophie when Bailey gave the boy a lift home.

While Bailey was arrested for Sophie’s murder, there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder scene and he was never charged in Ireland for the crime.

murder cottage

Where is Ian Bailey now?

Ian Bailey remains in Ireland. In 2001, he was arrested for assaulting girlfriend Jules Thomas and received a three month suspended sentence. (The couple announced they had split up earlier this year.)

In May 2019 the French courts put Bailey on trial for Sophie’s murder and he was found guilty in absentia. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and attempts were made to have him extradited from Ireland to France.

However, the Irish High Court ruled against Bailey’s extradition. He continues to live in Cork and is now a poet.

The Sun recently reported that Bailey wrote a letter to Garda Commissioner Drew Harris, complaining about the handling of the murder investigation. “For 25 years my life has been blighted by a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and put me in the frame for a crime I had nothing to do with,” he wrote. “The false narrative casting me as a murderer has ruined my life and at this stage I am in danger of being tortured to the grave.”

Despite this, Bailey contributed to the Netflix documentary and also the Jim Sheridan-directed series Murder At The Cottage about Sophie’s murder that will be broadcast on Sky Crime from Sunday 20th June.

In May 2021, he told The Neil Prendeville Show on Cork’s Red FM radio: “The Netflix documentary I think is actually more a piece of propaganda than an objective documentary from what I understand. I co-operated fully with the Jim Sheridan project. I gave the Netflix team… some limited access to me in the open air as it were – just being myself. But I didn’t do any interviews with them.” [Despite his claim, the Netflix documentary does feature an interview with Bailey.]

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Sophie: A Murder in West Cork is available to stream on Netflix. If you’re looking for something else to watch, visit our TV Guide. Check out our Documentaries hub for all the latest news.