Meeting Ian Bailey
The home of Ian Bailey and Jules Thomas is hidden from the road by tall, elegant natural reed gates outside Schull. There is a luxuriant garden surrounding the yellow, two story, traditional farm house and to the side a glass house with vegetable and shrubs.
There is a man on a ladder at the front of the house on the afternoon of 18 October. He informs the occupants of the arrival of another intruder.
Jules Thomas strides out of the back door with a noisy dog. She demands I leave immediately and the snarling dog concurs. Ian Bailey appears. Tall, handsome, healthier than he appears in the press or on TV, fresh-faced, well dressed and smiling.
Jules Thomas briskly returns to the back door of the house. Bailey chats a little, explains he can't talk to the press and enquires if I am ok to reverse out the drive. He offers to assist but is unsuccessful. We talk of the glorious autumnal sunshine after hours of rain, the charm of west Cork, his gorgeous garden. He says new information will emerge shortly which will change the whole story. He'd like to elaborate but can't, won't. He checks I know my way to Schull. We will talk aanother time, he says.
His nearest neighbour, John O'Driscoll, speaks warmly of Bailey. O'Driscoll is used to the press asking the way to the house. O'Driscoll, talks about the "murder". He, like all other locals, is amazed its still unsolved and puzzled by the week's developments. He has seen Bailey that morning and thinks he (Bailey) is in good form. He speaks highly of him as a neighbour and describes him as a "kind and gentle fella". He can't believe Bailey is involved in a murder. He, like others, say Bailey used to be wild on drink but is not anymore.
Bailey and Thomas have a stall in the Schull farmers' market every Sunday. Fresh bread baked by Bailey and water colours painted by Thomas were not on sale last Sunday – they kept away. There is mixed opinion on whether their presence at the market is good or bad for business generally. Some locals say they avoid the market because they don't want to see the couple or don't know how to behave towards them. Others think it's an added attraction to the fresh and local fare and social occasion of the Sunday market.
Local publicans in nearby Ballydehob, Julia and Nell Levis, describe Bailey as a gentle lad, who does not drink alcohol when in their pub. They remember because they'd always have to boil a kettle and make him tea when he called by.
Few in Schull wants to talk about the du Plantier case. Some are still very sad at the loss of a friend and don't want to talk in advance of the forthcoming civil case (that is now in doubt because of the recent revelations). Du Plantier's friends are preparing for her parents to arrive in December for the ninth anniversary of her murder. She is remembered by Schull people as very quiet and gentle. Some talk about the last time they saw her – in the shops or ordering her newspaper for the next day.
And although no one wants to talk on the record, many have lots to say. There is a general disgust at the continued spotlight on Schull. Most people just want to get on with their lives. They suggest people (ie the media) focus on the "35 murders that happen in Dublin each year and leave them alone". A friend of du Plantier does not want to talk, sees no point "as anything one says just leads to more questions".
Marie Farrell's reversal about identifying Bailey is, for many, just another bizarre turn in a long, unsatisfactory murder inquiry. Although RTÉ news did not cover the story the night of 17 October, it was the top item on the TV3 news and featured on Sky that night. Locals comment on the repetition in media coverage. They wish the gardaí could be as busy as the journalists on the case.
Some talk about Garda mismanagement of the case. They wonder, for instance, why the then recently-retired local sergeants in Schull and Goleen weren't drafted in to assist with the case. They believe that these men could have solved it long before now. People are still annoyed by the "detectives from Limerick who were very heavy handed with the locals", "The higher up they are the more the mess they make it it" was one comment about the Gardai.