Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s son vows to get truth on murder

Victim’s son welcomes as a victory new move by French authorities to try Ian Bailey

Sitting on a wooden bench in glorious sunshine and watching his young daughter Sophie play along the stone pathway outside his holiday home in Dreenane, Toormore, near Schull, in west Cork, Pierre Louis Baudey-Vignaud is in a good place at the moment, in more ways than one.

The 35-year-old is comfortable coming to the remote dormer cottage where his film producer mother, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, was murdered 20 years ago, and he is in a reflective mood.

Looking out across the hills to the shimmering water at Ballyrisode, he considers the events of the past few days.

Pierre Louis was 15 years old when news filtered back to France, just two days before Christmas 1996, that it was his mother whose badly beaten body had been found lying on the laneway leading to the remote holiday home on the Mizen Peninsula which had become her sanctuary.


Now, two decades later, Pierre Louis left with his wife Aurelia and their children Sophie (4) and Louis (3) for their annual summer holiday in west Cork, just as news was breaking that the French authorities are going to charge Englishman Ian Bailey with his mother’s murder.

“We learned last week and while it was not unexpected, you never know what is going to happen. It’s a victory for us but we have had victories before only for them to disappear.

"Our biggest victory up until now was when the High Court ordered Ian Bailey's extradition five years ago," he says.

"But then, a year later, it counted for nothing when the Supreme Court overturned that decision, so we have learned not to assume anything - but at least with this we are certain there will be a trial and that is very important for us," he adds.


Pierre Louis inherited the house at Dreenane when his mother was murdered, and although his stepfather Daniel Toscan du Plantier had suggested that he sell it, his father Pierre Jean Baudey-Vignaud had counselled against doing anything too quickly.

He had visited Dreenane every year with his mother, and he tenderly recalls her preparing a meal in the kitchen or reading a book on the patio. However, Pierre Louis didn’t visit the house for two years after his mother’s murder - not returning there until Easter 1998 with his father.

He remembers the visit with fondness and recalls how, as his parents had separated when he was just aged one, he had a sense of them being reunited at the house with his memories of his mother. Pierre Louis would now like his children to grow up with the same fond memories he has of the house.

“Of course I cannot forget what happened to my mother here, but visits here are not a pilgrimage – I use it as a holiday home, as she did.

“I remember watching her in the kitchen, and it’s important for me that my daughter would use the kitchen and come to love the place in the same way.

“Yes, there are moments when we are eating breakfast and I look at the door and think it was stained with my mother’s blood, but I have a choice – I can scream and leave with my family or I can confront it alone in my mind and say we’re staying here for the kids, as she would have wanted.”

Pierre Louis hopes that as his children grow into adults they will learn something of their grandmother’s character from her love of the remote and rugged west Cork hillside which she chose as her retreat from the busy and hectic life she lived as a film producer in Paris.


And what of events back in France – is he hopeful that Ireland will extradite Ian Bailey to France for trial? Or is he prepared for a lengthy legal battle, as happened the last time the French authorities sought Mr Bailey’s extradition in 2012?

“Maybe it will be a trial in absentia – that would be frustrating for us. But, at the same time, it is progress and, personally, I don’t care how long it takes, whether it’s 20 years or 25 years, I am going nowhere – I can wait 50 years but we will have the truth one day.

“But my biggest hope is that it will be soon and that my grandparents, Georges and Marguerite (Bouniol) will find out what happened to their daughter before they die because they have earned the right to know the truth and finally have some peace in their twilight years.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times