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'I WOULD NOT STAY WITH A MURDERER' Artist insists her lover is innocent.

Byline: LISA JONES

A WELSH landscape artist has described moves to extradite her lover over the brutal murder of a French socialite as a "big mistake".

Watercolour painter Jules Thomas, from Pembrokeshire, will learn on Wednesday if long-term partner Ian Bailey, 53, is to be sent to France to answer questions over the 1996 death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

Bailey is due to appear before the Dublin High Court to fight the extradition bid.

Ms Thomas, a mother of three daughters, 58, has constantly stood by him and has attacked the move to extradite him, saying the authorities were again targeting the wrong person.

She said: "We received a phone call from a French reporter and that was the first we had heard about it.

"When they (detectives) called, we were half expecting it - but forewarned is forearmed.

"They are still making a big mistake."

Ms Thomas has also reportedly told a French TV crew, "I would not stay with a murderer. I am not a stupid woman".

Sophie Toscan du Plantier, an upper-class French documentary maker, was found in her nightclothes and boots in the lane to her farmhouse in Schull, County Cork, two days before Christmas 1996.

She had been bludgeoned to death.

Bailey and Thomas, who live two miles away, were among the first on the scene.

A freelance reporter at the time, Bailey, originally from Gloucester, filed the first stories about the killing to Irish and French newspapers.

Both were later arrested and quizzed about the murder, with Bailey detained twice in 1997 and 1998, but nobody has ever been charged.

French authorities launched a new probe into the killing of the mother of one, 39, a friend of former French president Jacques Chirac, after being handed the case documents in 2008. They exhumed her body for further analysis and quizzed witnesses in Ireland and Paris, and moved to extradite Bailey in March under a European Arrest Warrant.

But Bailey, who is now studying law at Cork University, continues to protest his innocence, despite a 2003 libel case which heard evidence that he had written in private diaries he had "actually tried to kill" his partner, Ms Thomas.

He said: "There is absolutely no foundation to any of the allegations made against me.

"It has dominated the last 14 years and has made my life hell. I just want to be able to get on with my life."

Mr Bailey's solicitor, Frank Buttimer, has indicated his client will vigorously contest the validity of the warrant and any and all attempts to extradite him to France.

Mr Buttimer said his client would appeal to the Supreme Court if he lost his High Court case, as he believed granting a warrant in such circumstances would raise broader constitutional issues.

Mrs Toscan du Plantier's body was found so badly beaten by a slate stone or a cavity block, both of which were lying near her body, that it took some time to formally identify her.

The autopsy report said her right cheek had been crushed; her bottom lip and gums were torn; her eye-socket was fractured; her left hand and the fingers on both hands were broken; there were 10 cuts to her scalp; and numerous scratches and blood on her stomach, her left arm and right hip.

Police believe she knew her killer and had opened the front door to him, only to be attacked.

She had tried to escape but had been bludgeoned to the ground after catching her pyjama bottoms on barbed wire. Her neck bore the mark of a Dr Marten boot, indicating that she had been stamped upon.

CAPTION(S):

ALLEGATIONS: Ian Bailey and the victim, Sophie Toscan Du Plantier HE'S INNOCENT: Ian Bailey's partner Jules Thomas arrives at court in Cork, Ireland PICTURE: MAURICE O'MAHONY
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 30, 2010
Words:633
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