Who killed Sophie Toscan du Plantier? That’s what many viewers of the new Netflix series set in Ireland, Sophie: A Murder in West Cork, are wondering, especially if they’re only into episode one or two of the three-part series. Forewarning: There will be spoilers for the series in this article.
Is the Netflix show a real story? Yes. It’s a documentary that is based on a real murder mystery out of Ireland. The people featured in the show, including du Plantier and murder suspect Ian Bailey, were and are real people. What was her cause of death? It was horrific. According to The Sun, the killer “caved in her skull with a heavy 17 inch-long concrete block as she tried to flee.”
Du Plantier, a movie producer, also had injuries to her chest and hands, as well as scratches on her cheek and neck, the British news site reported.
Who is the killer? Who killed Sophie? That’s a question of which court you believe.
Here’s what you need to know:
Bailey Was Convicted by a French Court in Absentia But Never Extradited
Sophie Toscan du Plantier was a French national on holiday at her isolated, coastal Irish home near Schull when she was found battered to death in 1996 near a gate on her own property. The homicide transfixed Ireland and France for years, and no one has ever served time in connection with it. According to The Irish Times, there is no DNA or fingerprint matches in the case.
The Netflix show reveals that Irish police zeroed in on a key suspect – Bailey, a journalist and amateur poet – immediately. There were many reasons to suspect him, and that’s likely why he lost a libel suit against Irish and British media on the question. The police arrested him twice, according to the series. But every time they let him go, and Irish prosecutors never charged Bailey with the crime.
The show alleges that he confessed multiple times to the murder to various people, and that witnesses claim he knew Sophie, contradicting his claims that he did not know the victim. Bailey was working as a journalist when the murder occurred, and he showed up at the scene, and by some accounts knew a French woman had been murdered before this was widely known. He adamantly denies murdering Toscan du Plantier.
He also had an alleged history of violence against women, and a woman claimed she saw him standing near a bridge the morning of the murder, although she later recanted that accusation. He also had wounds to his hand and face the day after the crime.
As the show reveals and real life confirms, although he was never charged in Ireland, where the crime occurred, a French court convicted Bailey in absentia in 2019, and he was sentenced to 25 years in prison. However, an Irish court refused to extradite him, so he walks free in Ireland today. Irish law doesn’t follow the same legal principles as those followed in France, so they don’t recognize the conviction.
As for other suspects, the show says Sophie’s husband, famed French movie producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier, was ruled out as a suspect. So too was a lover she had taken and rejected, a man named Bruno Carbonnet. Both had alibis, according to Yahoo Entertainment. According to Distractify, Daniel died in 2003 of complications from a heart attack.
According to the Sun, before he died, Daniel said Sophie was “very dynamic” and a “young, impulsive woman,” adding, “In effect she was more than a tough character, with a strict moral code, who feared nothing. She rather avoided the world of society and gossip and preferred the chic and popular quarters where she felt more at ease.” He told the Sun they talked about “trivialities” on the phone before she died and added, “I have absolutely no idea as to the perpetrator of the crime and do not see any possible motive for such an act, other than it being an act of violence.”
He remarried after his wife died, telling The Irish Times, “You have to respond to death with life. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the marks left within you by the woman who has been taken from you. It doesn’t lessen the misfortune. The memory and the suffering remain.”
Bailey Recently Floated the Theory That a Hitman Killed Sophie
Over the years, Bailey has tried to shift attention to other narratives, alleging that the killer of Sophie Toscan du Plantier may be a hitman. According to a July 1, 2021, article in The Irish Times, a lawyer representing Sophie’s family recently presented Bailey with a challenge: Come up with some evidence for that.
“Ian Bailey was convicted in his absence in the Cour d’Assise in Paris in May 2019 of the voluntary homicide of Sophie Toscan du Plantier but if he were to come to France, he would have the opportunity to have a new trial where he would be legally represented,” he said to the newspaper.
“If he believes that Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed by a French hitman and he has information to that effect, then he should come to France, surrender to the French authorities and he could present whatever evidence he had on this hitman to the new trial.”
Bailey recently tried to pin the blame on Sophie’s deceased husband Daniel, telling The Irish Mirror, “I suspect the hitman is from France – it was always one of the theories in the case but it was never seriously followed up the by gardaí. What I do know is it was not me. I did not know Sophie, I did not have sex with her, I did not kill her.”
He further claimed, “In cases like this, you have to ask who benefitted most from her death? Her husband was having an affair with his fourth wife, Melita Nikolic. He had a substantial amount of insurance on Sophie’s life. He acted very strangely after her death. I do not have hard evidence to prove it but that is my view.”
The Irish Times reported that Marie Farrell, the woman who retracted her claim that she saw Bailey by a bridge, now says the man was Middle Eastern and “recognised the man as being known to Ms Toscan du Plantier’s husband, Daniel.”
According to Irish Mirror, Bailey has accused the Netflix series of being a “piece of self-serving, demonising propaganda.” He added, “I have had 25 years of life taken away. I have lost my career as a journalist. I have now lost my partner – we had been together for 30 years – and I am now losing my home, so for anybody to suggest that is perverse.”