Narrated by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde
Non Fiction, True Crime, Murder, Mystery, Audio Review
Released: February 2018
This much we do know: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered days before Christmas in 1996, her broken body discovered at the edge of her property near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The rest remains a mystery.
West Cork is an Audible Original series of podcast episodes complied by investigative journalist Sam Bungey and his wife, TV researcher and producer Jennifer Forde. They spent three years working on the project which deals with the aftermath of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a French TV producer. Sophie was murdered just before Christmas in 1996 and her brutally battered body was discovered close to her holiday cottage near the remote town of Schull in western Cork. The case remains unsolved which must be devastating for the victim’s family, who have never given up seeking justice.
The atmosphere and the sense of place is tangible, the small, isolated and normally peaceful community clearly defined but damaged since events have taken over. Knowing there’s a murderer in their midst altered their perceptions of where and how they lived, the people around them. Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde present the facts as they occurred and include interviews with locals, audio files, transcripts, telephone calls between detectives, interviews with the gardaí and also the only suspect. Mme du Plantier was found in her nightclothes with boots on. It was thought she was running from someone. Injuries to her hands indicated a struggle to defend herself.
Listening to West Cork was fascinating, frustrating and intriguing in equal measure. Unbiased in the main, I felt there was a little too much repetition, and possibly time spent, recording the interviews with Ian Bailey. He loved to talk and his recounting of events did change sometimes. However, those interviews did show that he was prone to drunken, violent outbursts towards his partner Jules Thomas, who was injured and hospitalised on more than one occasion. They both discussed it as though it was nothing of consequence. Bailey seemed to love the limelight and any sort of publicity, be it good or bad. As an ex journalist he even went as far as trying to investigate the murder himself. Even though he was shunned by most people, he and Jules continued living at their cottage, which was three kilometres from the murder scene.
It was actually incredible how unreliable some witness statements were and how they altered during the course of the investigation—mainly the statement(s) made by Marie Farrell. Her story changed so many times, I lost count. Forensics weren’t what they are today but there was a distinct lack of forensic evidence gathered from the scene initially, considering the nature of the murder, and certain items went missing or weren’t found until much later. Questions were raised about the handling of the case by the gardaí. They seemed only to focus on Bailey without any other consideration.
The story isn’t over yet. The question still remains – did Ian Bailey kill Sophie Toscan du Plantier? And if so, why? It’s an easy leap to think he could have committed the murder after listening to this recording. He doesn’t appear to be a nice person and freely admits to violent behaviour. It’s also pretty obvious he has an inflated sense of self importance and a lack of empathy but is he capable of an escalation to murder? Views and witness statements were put forward but apparently none were proved. Bailey was arrested twice and released for lack of evidence but now, twenty some years later, a French court is to decide his fate in absentia. My sympathies lie with Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s remaining family, I hope there’s some sort of resolution for them. The story continues.
As an aside, I found it disconcerting that the podcasts didn’t flow continuously, each one is separate so it necessitated starting every episode individually, with the same introduction, before getting back to the story.