On December 20, 1996, she arrived alone in her holiday home in Ireland, in County Cork. She is preparing two thematic evening projects for the Arte television channel. On December 23, 1996, Sophie Toscan du Plantier would die and her body would be covered with around 40 wounds. The drama unfolded outside her residence in Toormore, County Cork. Within a matter of 3 days upon arrival, she was murdered. How and why did this happen? The weapon which was used to kill Sophie Toscan du Plantier has never been found. What? The murderer had not been formally identified, but the English journalist Ian Bailey is recognized as the main suspect. The investigation stalled for more than 12 years before making a giant leap in 2010. This sounds even more crazy! Yes, the Irish journalist would be extradited to face French justice for the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier. Although Irish justice considers the evidence insufficient, and he was sentenced to 25 years of criminal imprisonment in France in 2019, without obtaining extradition.
Sophie Toscan du Plantier: 7 Intimate Facts About Her Life and Death
1. Sophie Toscan du Plantier was born in Paris:
Her real name is Sophie Bouniol, and was born in France on July 28, 1957. She is the eldest of the children of George Bouniol and Marguerite Gazeay. She has a younger brother named Bertrand. Professionally, she embarked on a career as a television producer.
2. The young woman married twice:
Her first marriage to Pierre Baudey was celebrated on June 21, 1980. The following year, the couple gave birth to Pierre-Louis Baudey, born March 26, 1981. Unfortunately, the couple encountered difficulties and ended up separating. Ten years later, she met Daniel Toscan du Daniel, and the couple married on June 18, 1991. For the producer, this would be his third marriage.
Why did Sophie Toscan du Plantier go to Ireland?
Sophie Toscan du Plantier, the wife of film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, was found brutally murdered on December 23, 1996, a stone’s throw from her second home in Ireland. She was 39 when she decided to go alone to her holiday home in Toormore, Ireland, ten kilometers from Crookhaven in County Cork. The wife of the film producer retired there to work on 2 themed evening projects for Arte.
While she retires to what she calls her haven of peace, her husband, Daniel Toscan du Plantier, is in their house in the Gers and awaits his wife for Christmas Eve. Sophie does her shopping in Schull, Sophie visits a ruined castle… and the last thing she does which was recorded when she was alive was a telephone conversation with her husband.
What happened to Sophie Toscan du Plantier on December 23rd?
Sophie Toscan du Plantier is found dead by her neighbors, Shirley Foster and Alfie Lyons just 50 meters from her house.
What happened to Sophie Toscan du Plantier on December 22nd?
After her phone call to her husband on Dec 22nd, it is assumed that Sophie was woken up by someone banging on the kitchen door. She comes down in pajamas and boots, and opens the door to the person who woke her up from her sleep. We can therefore conclude that she must have known her attacker.
It is here, on the doorstep of the kitchen that a first argument would have taken place. The attacker allegedly hit her in the face (there are marks of her blood in this place). She would have struggled by scratching him on the face and arms (we found hair under her fingernails).
Feeling her danger, she reportedly started running towards the garden, but her killer caught up with her and severely beat her. And it is near the garden fence that he grabs a block of cement and delivers the fatal blow.
In total, there are about forty injuries and a completely disfigured face. The assassin went after his victim. So much violence for a theft? Investigators doubt it.
4. Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s murder investigation:
On Christmas Eve in the Irish countryside, the local police are facing their 1st murder and this inexperience will come at a cost.
The medical examiner arrives 36 hours after the discovery of the body. Too late to give the exact time of the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier. And too late also to exploit the hair found under the nails of the victim.
During the autopsy, we notice wounds made with a very sharp object. The murder weapon? This will always remain a hypothesis, no corresponding object having been found.
In the house, calmness reigns. No light is on, the bed is unmade, the front door is locked and the kitchen door pushed. Everything tries to prove that she was awakened and that she opened the door without suspecting the tragic fate that awaited her.
A few days after her death, while the Irish investigators are trying their best to gather as many clues as possible to resolve the investigation, the Bouniol and Toscan du Plantier families organize Sophie’s funeral in Mauvaizin-de-l ‘ Isle, between the Gers and the Haute-Garonne.
5. Who is Ian Bailey? How did he get caught?
2 months after Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s murder, the Irish police arrested a suspect. Ian Bailey, a (then) 40-year-old journalist who has traces of scratches on his face.
He knows the victim and above all, he was seen by Mary Farrell, a resident of Toormore at around 3 a.m. on the night of the crime.
And then, another disturbing fact, a certain Malachi Reed, a 14-year-old teenager, says that Ian Bailey would have hitchhiked him and said to her: “I went to see her, she got angry and I hit her, smashed the skull ”.
Finally, in his articles concerning the murder, he gives details that only the police or the killer can know. This is why the Irish police wanted to hear it, twice. But he was not charged.
In 2003, Ian Bailey even filed a libel lawsuit against 6 newspapers which had accused him of being Sophie’s murderer. At that time, Mary Farrell (the eye-witness we mentioned above) testified: “This man has made my life a nightmare. Since my testimony, he hasn’t stopped harassing me. On several occasions, he made the gesture of slitting my throat… He gave me the address of his lawyer. He wanted me to go tell him that I had produced false testimony. ”
In October 2005, as the investigation stalled, lawyers for Mary Farrell spoke to announce: “Mary Farrell went back on her statement to the police that she saw Bailey on the night of the murder. She says she was pressed by the police to name Ian Bailey at the time and make these retractions on her own initiative.
In 2008, 12 years after the murder, the investigation was sent to French justice. Judge Patrick Gachon ordered the exhumation of Sophie’s body. But this exhumation, which took place in November, did not yield anything.
On the other hand, the judge accepted a new action of the family of Sophie, the Bouniol family name for “witness intimidation” and “false testimony”.
Marguerite Bouniol, Sophie’s mother, says, speaking of Ian Bailey: “He was taken into custody twice, but the prosecutor made no decision. Today, this man is free, he taunts everyone. In the pubs, he proclaims: I am the murderer of Sophie! He walks, he enrolled in law school, he likes to be talked about! The locals all think he’s the culprit. In the country, we would like this case to end, and first that we judge this man! ”.
6. Documentaries based on her life:
The murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier arouses great emotion, and since then many documentaries have emerged. A documentary series retracing the investigation, entitled Sophie: A Murder in West Cork produced by Netflix, was released on June 30, 2021.
7. Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s most important dates:
- July 28, 1957: birth of Sophie Bouniol (wife of Toscan du Plantier)
- 1991: wedding of Sophie Bouniol and Daniel Toscan du Plantier
Death and prominent dates of the murder and murderer
- December 20, 1996: arrival of Sophie in Ireland
- December 23, 1996: murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier
- December 24, 1996: late arrival of the medical examiner
- Early 1997: Ian Bailey was arrested
- 2003: death of Daniel Toscan du Plantier
- 2005: Key Witness Mary Farrell recanted
- November 2008: Judge Patrick Gachon orders the exhumation of Sophie’s body and accepts the action of Sophie’s family for “witness intimidation” and “false testimony”
- 2008: the survey is sent to the French authorities
- February 19, 2010: the investigating judge issues a European arrest warrant against Ian Bailey
- March 9, 2010: Irish justice acknowledges receipt of the warrant
- April 23, 2010: Ian Bailey is arrested at his home in Ireland
- April 24, 2010: he is released but under judicial supervision. France requests his extradition.