Jules Thomas, the former partner of Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder suspect Ian Baileyis set to allege in a defamation action that a major documentary series sought to portray her as an accomplice in the unsolved killing.
he Welsh-born artist initiated proceedings against Netflix, director John Dower and production company Lightbox Media on Monday over the widely-seen Sophie: A Murder in West Cork docuseries.
Breaking her silence on the lawsuit, she told the Irish Independent: “They were trying to portray me as an accomplice to a murder.
“People have watched it all over the world, not just in Ireland. It is just portraying a picture of me in the wrong light completely.”
Ms Thomas (73) is seeking damages for injury to her reputation, claiming her work as an artist dried up in the aftermath of the show being streamed last year.
She further alleges unauthorized filming took place at her home near Schull, Co Cork and also wants a section of the docuseries removed.
This is related to claims by an Italian woman that she saw Mr. Bailey’s jacket soaking in a large bucket in the shower at Ms. Thomas’s home in the aftermath of the murder.
Ms Thomas said the allegation was “completely untrue”.
“The whole thing has been so damaging. I am sick of it. I want to put a stop to it and no more lies please,” she said.
The makers of the series, which was released in June of last year, did not respond to requests for comment about her claims.
Ms. Thomas is due to make an application to the High Court next Monday for permission to serve the proceedings on the proposed defendants as they are all located abroad.
She would also have to make an application for the extension of the 12-month time limit for filing a defamation claim. Courts can extend this to two years if it is deemed appropriate to do so in the interests of justice.
Speaking to the Irish IndependentMs Thomas said the fall-out from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder had taken up most of her adult life and she hoped the lawsuit would help to “put a lid on it”.
Ms Thomas reiterated her belief that Mr Bailey (65) was innocent. The former couple split in April 2021 after almost 30 years together.
Ms Toscan du Plantier (39), a French filmmaker, was bludgeoned to death outside her holiday home at Toormore, near Schull, in December 1996.
Gardaí became suspicious of Mr. Bailey, an English-born journalist who was covering the hunt for the killer for several newspapers.
Both he and Ms. Thomas were arrested twice but were released without charge.
A report by the DPP, which was scathing of the Garda investigation, ruled out a prosecution of Mr. Bailey on the basis of insufficient evidence.
However, Mr. Bailey was found guilty of murder by a court in France after being tried in absentia in 2019.
The High Court subsequently refused to extradite him to France.
Ms. Thomas was not interviewed for the Netflix docuseries.
A major part of her lawsuit relates to an interview filmed with Arianna Boarina, an Italian friend of Ms Thomas’s daughter Jennifer, who came to stay at the artist’s home over the Christmas period in 1996.
In a chilling scene, interspersed with mocked up shots of a grimy bathroom, Ms. Boarina said: “I remember taking a shower. There was a large bucket in the shower. A dark coat soaked in it. Heavy material. I believed it was Ian’s coat.
“I would say that is unusual. You are washing such a large item that is not easy to dry in the middle of winter.
“It was significant and I remember clearly that it was unusual.”
Ms Thomas disputes this account. “There was never a bucket of anything in the bath,” she said.
Earlier this year, Mr Bailey alleged Ms Boarina was “coerced” into giving the interview at a time when she was “emotionally vulnerable”.
The account given by Ms Boarina in the docuseries differs from a statement she gave to gardaí in 1999.
In the statement, she said: “While staying at Jules’ house during that time I remember clothes being soaked in the bath.
“These were dark clothes but I can’t say what type of clothes these were except they were dark.”
The statement made no reference to a coat or who the clothing belonged to.
The Irish Independent made efforts to speak to Ms. Boarina by phone and via text, but she did not respond.
Neither Mr. Dower nor Lightbox responded to requests for comment.
However, earlier this year, the director said it was “absolutely and completely untrue that she was coerced into any interview”.
Mr Dower insisted Ms Boarina was happy to do the interview and that she had said she wished she had come forward years earlier.
Ms. Thomas also said she was upset with how her home was depicted in the Netflix series.
“They made up pictures of the bathroom and the kitchen as a stinking mess, a really dirty hovel. My home is not. I was pretty fed up with that,” she said.
The artist alleges filming took place at her property without her consent while she was working in her studio.
She claims drones were flown over her home, something she described as “really invasive”.
It is unclear who was flying the drones. Ms Thomas said she ended up suffering financially in the aftermath of the production being released.
“I have lost a lot of income from it because people don’t want to come near somebody who is connected to a murder.
“I used to have a lot more people coming to me for paintings and heritage work and all sorts of things. That slumped enormously [after the docuseries].
“I was going to galleries for a couple of years and they were taking my work and it was selling and then suddenly, no, they wouldn’t take my work.
“It is a funny old business selling art. It is erratic. But I do know people like my work.
“And a lot of people were buying it. I wasn’t too expensive. I was reasonable. So, they would come back for more. But then it ground to almost a halt.
“There are always some people who are sympathetic and believe you, but in the general face of the public I do get a lot of funny glares. It is just uncomfortable.”
Ms Thomas said she worried that people who watched the docuseries would think “I was just covering for Ian and being a silly little yes woman”.
“But, no, I have never told a lie. I know Ian had nothing to do with it,” she said.
“He just wouldn’t be able to handle it. He wouldn’t be able to cover it up emotionally. He is not capable of covering up his emotions. I could read him like a book.
“If he did something like that, I would have known. He is messy. I would have seen blood. I would have seen all sorts of things.”
Ms Thomas said she had ended their relationship last year as she had wanted to move on with her life.
“It was terrible, really, really terrible living with the strain of it,” she said.
“He never stopped going on about it, the whole case. It could be the last thing at night. I said please don’t talk about it last thing at night. It just makes me wake up ten times a night, which it did. But he never stopped. He was like a cracked record.”
And while she believes he is innocent, they no longer talk. “We are not friends. We don’t see each other. I don’t know where he lives. Somewhere around Bantry, I think. We don’t have any contact with each other at all,” she said.
Ms Thomas’s lawsuit is the second being taken in connection with the docuseries. Jennifer Forde and Sam Bungey, producers of the well-received ‘West Cork’ podcast, have also initiated proceedings against Netflix, Mr Dower and Lightbox.
Details of that case have yet to be revealed.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork was one of two docuseries which brought the unsolved murder to wider international attention last year. Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan also released Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie.