The Cottage remains shrouded in mystery

The Cottage remains shrouded in mystery

Covid-19 has done many things to many people. Around the world, families have lost loves ones, those who survived their tangle with the dastardly thing remained ill for months thereafter. Businesses have gone under, entire business sectors narrowly avoided doing so. Yet for all the challenges it has drummed up for so many, it has also thrown up opportunities for people.

Community spirit was and continues to be seen at its best. For yours truly, it presented the opportunity to write my second book, Rolling Down Memory Lane which unfortunately hasn’t made it to a printers yet but it will. Aside from that, expanding the variety of content and subject matter on these pages.

Which in itself was only possible because of the variety of different television one ended up perusing when sport and all other normality was put on ice. One factor in which was – albeit belatedly compared to the rest of the world – my ability to access Netflix.

It will surely come as no surprise to anybody that the first series digested thereon was The Last Dance – the story of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, not to mention Formula One – Drive To Survive which offered an enthralling insight into the world of the lightening paced action. An arena which,to be brutally honest, very little interest would’ve been retained beforehand. Mind you, whatever about that being the case in this seat, her indoors also got hooked on the fuel guzzling, rubber burning fare as did some of her friends who have about as much interest in sport as I have in reality television.

What it also did, mind you, was allow for an expansion of another secret interest of mine – true crime, forensic investigations and the like. Apart from the normal true crime programming on the Sky channels, undoubtedly the best thing encountered on Netflix thus far was The Staircase – the story of author Michael Petersen who was accused but eventually acquitted of his wife’s murder. Other than that, my unending love of tools and machinery was also very well catered for thanks to shows like Rust Valley Restorers and Big Timber.

It has occurred to me, though, that all of the aforementioned may have to concede top spot in terms of popularity to Murder At The Cottage – Jim Sheridan’s excellent investigative documentary series looking into the murder of Sophie Toscan Du Plantier in Schull, Co Cork in December 1996. The French lady had been a regular visitor cum part-time resident to the outlying, isolated community.


It has got to be one of the most sparse places in the world. By way of population or any other signs of life. Being a writer myself, it is totally understandable to me why Madame Du Plantier would find solace and inspiration for her work in such a spot. In the late hours of the night, when not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse, is when creative juices flow at their most fervant in this seat. And the mysterious appeal of living in a quaint rural area has never waned and hopefully never will.

Acclaimed playwrite Jim Sheridan

At this point, it will have to be admitted that I had little or no knowledge of the Du Plantier case until most recently. Other, that is, than a guy called Ian Bailey being the chief suspect in the case from very early on. Back in ’96, my mind was totally consumed by Meath’s All Ireland win and the cr** I was going through in school.

However, there are happenings in life which, no matter what else is going on in life, you will never forget where you were when they took place. For whatever reason, the Toscan Du Plantier case never registered on my radar at all. I’d heard the name on the news alright – and that of Bailey – but hadn’t a clue about the ins and outs of the case until most recently.

So, having watched a couple of documentaries (Sky Crime and Netflix) and read up fairly extensively about the whole affair, what do I make of it all? Firstly, Sheridan’s Murder At The Cottage seemed much the better of the two. No matter which of them a body perused, mind you, one thing that is certain – it had to somebody with fairly vast local knowledge to even know or find where Sophie’s residence was.

Bailey certainly fitted that bill, a feeling bolstered by the amount of detail he was able to go into about the case in several publications. However, given the manner in which forensic science and the like has advanced in the interim, surely if the Gardai had enough evidence with which to charge the Englishman in the homicide case they’d have done so years ago.

Ian Bailey with now former partner Jules Thomas

But then, to inspect things through an alternative lens, you have to wonder how the French authorities managed to prepare charges against the point and writer, let alone find him guilty and sentence him to 25 years in jail.

Did they know something the Irish didn’t?

If so, how did that come about?

How could a man be guilty in one jurisdiction and not in another?

How could the French construct a case pertaining to an event which took place in Ireland yet lawmakers here never could?

Considering there were supposedly 50 + suspects, how was it they entire case appeared to revolve solely around Ian Bailey?

Like probably everybody who has come across this case in whatever shape or form, I have my ow view on what happened and how it played out. It may be the case that more will be revealed in Bailey’s mooted forthcoming new book. The gambler in me, though, would wager The Cottage will remain shrouded in mystery.

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