What Sophie: A Murder In West Cork Didn't Tell You

The life and murder of French film producer Sophie Toscan du Plantier continue to fascinate the public. Both are examined in the Netflix documentary, "Sophie: A Murder in West Cork." The crime remains a mystery almost 25 years later and although there are other media explorations of this unsolved mystery, the Netflix documentary differs from the previous versions. Audible's "West Cork" podcast, and Sky's "Murder At The Cottage" home in on the crime itself, while Netflix focused on her life by incorporating her friends and family while scrutinizing the continuing legal obstacles preventing even an ounce of justice.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was born in 1957 and lived in Paris with her parents Georges and Marguerite Bouniol, and brother, Bertrand Bouniol. When she was 22 years old, she married Pierre Jean Baudey, and shortly after the birth of their son, Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, the marriage ended, After toying with the idea of being a lawyer, she fell into producing after climbing the ranks at UniFrance, an organization that promotes French films internationally. She was producing and directing documentary films when she met Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a French film producer in the workplace. She married Toscan du Plantier, who was 16-years her senior, in 1991.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier saw the White Lady at Three Head Castle the day before she died

Daniel Toscan du Plantier was a celebrated film producer and became president of UniFrance in 1988. According to IMDb, his repertoire includes "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover" (1989), "Boris Godounov" (1989), and "La Bohème" (1994). He reminisced about his late wife in an interview with The Sun, "In effect, she was more than a tough character, with a strict moral code, who feared nothing." He also noted, "She rather avoided the world of society and gossip and preferred the chic and popular quarters where she felt more at ease."

The 39-year-old wife and mother had an enviable life in Paris as a producer, director, and socialite, but she loved the safety, solace, and peace of the rural Irish retreat she purchased in 1993. It is hard to miss the irony of her picturesque and tranquil escape being the place of her ultimate doom, especially when, according to the documentary, she was insistent on someone going with her when she normally went alone.

According to Newsweek, Toscan du Plantier visited the mythical Three Castle Head shortly before her death. Local legend says those who see the White Lady are marked for imminent death. Reportedly, Sophie saw her on December 22, the day before her murder, and mentioned her strange experience to a couple not familiar with the legend. Soon, what was supposed to be a quiet Christmas outing, resulted in an inexplicably vicious crime.

Ian Bailey: The obvious suspect?

Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered outside her holiday home in Schull, County Cork, Ireland. According to Esquire, her neighbor, Shirley Forster found her lifeless body on December 23, dressed in nightclothes and viciously beaten on a path not too far from her front door in a thorny briar shrub as if she were rubbish. Incidentally, Shirley Forster, has since put her home up for sale, per CorkBeo. Her two-bedroom farmhouse is 100-yards away from Sophie's and they share the same driveway. Because Sophie's home has turned into a tourist spot, Forster thinks it is time to move on.

Ian Bailey, a freelance journalist from England who lived nearby, became a circumstantial suspect for several reasons. He hastily wrote an article despite the remote location, he was the first journalist on the scene; he had scratches on his arms and face; Marie Farrell, a local woman said a man fitting Bailey's description was on a bridge near Sophie's vacation home at 3 a.m.; he claims to have never met Sophie but that is contradicted by her and others; he has a history of violence against his girlfriend Jules; most damning, while drunk, he told several people he murdered Sophie Toscan du Plantier (via Netflix).

Sophie Toscan du Plantier's holiday retreat in Ireland

Because of how brutally Sophie was beaten, authorities entertained the idea that the murder was personal. Bailey wrote a series of articles after Sophie's murder one of those articles claimed she had many lovers, reports The Independent.  Bruno Carbonnet, an artist, was the only lover she had during her marriage. Although the documentary mentions that Carbonnet assaulted Sophie and that is what ended their relationship, there is no indication that he had anything to do with the murder, according to the Irish Times. Bailey has accused Sophie's husband of the crimes claiming he hired a hitman and another Irish Times piece says Daniel Toscan du Pointier's lawyers have invited him to produce the evidence.

Bailey has a pattern of putting himself in front of the media. He likes attention and he wants notoriety. According to The Independent, a psychiatric profile provided to the French court during a court proceeding in 2014, Bailey's personality is based on "narcissism, psycho-rigidity, violence, impulsiveness, egocentricity with an intolerance to frustration and a great need for recognition."

Police were unprepared

West Cork police were clearly over their heads. The quiet rural community's law enforcement had no experience with hardcore crime and as a result, the investigation itself was botched. An Irish Central article dissects the "rookie errors" within the investigation such as losing a blood-spattered gate, failing to preserve the crime scene, and leaving the scene of the crime unpreserved for 28-hours, which is how long it took for a pathologist to arrive. Additionally, there are accusations of police corruption.  Despite a staggering amount of circumstantial yet convincing evidence and two arrests connected to the murder. The Director of Public Prosecutions in Ireland refused to charge Bailey, citing insufficient evidence, so in 2019, a three-panel criminal trial court in France did what Ireland would not or could not do and gave him 25-years in prison after convicting him in absentia. However, a Supreme Court in Ireland refused to extradite him for the third time. Ireland's refusal to turn him over to France means as long as Bailey stays in Ireland, he will never serve one day in prison for the crime (per the Irish Examiner).

Pierre, Sophie, and Daniel during happier times

After Sophie's murder, Daniel Toscan du Plantier went on to marry his fourth wife Melita Nikolic in 1998. He died of a heart attack in 2003 while in Berlin (via The Sun). 

Marie Farrell, who'd initially said she saw Bailey on a bridge recanted her statement in 2015, reports Screenrant. Because her story changed several times, her testimony could not be trusted. She said the police coerced her into the initial confession, but she also said that Bailey threatened her on more than one occasion to recant her story.

Bruno Carbonnet continues to practice art in France and admits to having a hard time with the breakup. He rarely discusses Sophie or the case (via TheCinemaholic).  

Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud was 15 when his mother was died and was with his father when the murder took place. Through the years, he has been tenacious about getting justice and closure. His efforts helped convict Bailey in France but he would like to see him pay for the crime instead of being free of the consequences. "If Bailey continues to slip through the net, I assure you I will make sure the net comes down on Bailey," he said (per TheCinemaholic).

According to Digital Spy, Jules Thomas finally had enough of the beatings, media, and police attention and ended the relationship with Ian Bailey in 2020 after 25 years. Still, she believes in his innocence. "I've had enough," Jules said.  "After 25 years I am sick and tired of banging on with this. It's been just awful."

Bailey still lives in the community where this heinous crime took place. Some believe that there was a rush to judgment and that the police focused on Bailey without proof. According to Extra, there is now a new suspect in the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier based on additional statements from Marie Farrell.