A FORMER Forest of Dean-based journalist who was convicted by a Paris court of the 1996 Irish Riviera clifftop murder of a French film-maker has died at the age of 66.

Ian Bailey, who previously lived in Newent, was jailed for 25 years for murdering Sophie Toscan du Plantier – a friend of President Mitterand - outside her isolated cottage five years ago, but refused to attend the trial or surrender to the French authorities, while the Irish authorities refused to extradite him.

His solicitor Frank Buttimer, who has known Bailey since the late 1990s, said he was "very upset" to hear of his death.

"I knew Ian was very unwell. We were in communication in the past five days, but I didn't know he was terminally unwell," he said.

Bailey, who collapsed on a street in Bantry, had died 'a lonely and sad individual' whose life was destroyed by the Irish State, he claimed.

No one has ever been charged with the killing, and despite being arrested twice, the one-time Forest reporter always denied any involvement in 39-year-old Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s death at Christmas 1996.

The family of mother-of-one Ms du Plantier, who was the wife of the Paris Film Festival director, expressed “huge disappointment” at the Irish State’s decision not to appeal the warrant ruling on behalf of the French authorities after his conviction.

Bailey lived with Welsh artist partner Jules Thomas on the Cork Riviera near the murder scene for some 30 years before they separated some two years ago.

Ms du Plantier, 39, was found battered to death in her nightclothes outside her holiday home just two days before Christmas.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier (Family photo)

Mr Bailey, who lived two miles from the cottage, was the first journalist on the scene later that day and filed stories about the killing to Irish and French newspapers.

He and Ms Thomas, who took photos of the scene for newspapers, were both later arrested during the investigation but were released without any charges.

Mr Bailey slammed the 2019 three-day court hearing in Paris as a “show trial” which had accepted a “bundle of lies”.

Pressed by Ms Toscan Du Plantier’s family, French authorities took up the case in 2008, leading to the 2019 trial in France which just two Irish witnesses attended.

Convicting him, Judge Frederique Aline said there was “significant evidence” of Mr Bailey’s guilt.

The French court was told of scratches seen on his hands and forehead on December 23, the day Ms Toscan du Plantier’s body was found.

He said they were from killing and plucking three turkeys and cutting down a Christmas tree, but the Paris court heard that witnesses had seen him playing a bodhran drum in the pub the night before with rolled-up sleeves and observed no scratches.

Bill Fuller – one of the two Irish witnesses to give live evidence – said Mr Bailey had recounted a scenario of the killing to him.

He claimed he said: “You did it… you saw her in Spar and she got you excited as she walked through the aisles

“You went to her place to see what you could get, but she wasn’t interested so you attacked her.

“She tried to escape and you ran after her.

“You threw something at the back of her head and you went further than you planned to.”

But Mr Bailey said after the Paris court passed a 25-year jail term: “I know there are people in this country who know that it was not me that was the culprit… my prayer has been that the truth will come out.”