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BEAST BAILEY CRAWLS BACK HOME; EXCLUSIVE HIDEAWAY SOPHIE SUSPECT RETURNS.

Byline: ANN MOONEY

DISGRACED Ian Bailey is back in the arms of lover Jules Thomas after almost two months in hiding.

Bailey had an emotional reunion with Ms Thomas after weeks in "tortured" exile.

The 46-year-old - who was quizzed about the murder of Sophie du Plantier - fled after his libel trial loss and had been hiding at a pal's house in Dublin.

He believed there were death threats against him and claimed a hangman's noose had been left on a tree near his home.

But in the past two weeks he has returned to mother-of-three Ms Thomas's home in Schull, West Cork.

A former pal said: "He's back with Jules. He was in Dublin for weeks staying with a friend to shake off the media posse he believed was after him. Living in Dublin depressed him greatly and he wanted to go home. He thinks the press have lost interest in him."

Since his return, Bailey has been spotted gardening alone, head covered in a green anorak to hide his appearance. One local said: "I can't believe he has had the cheek to return. He must realise he's not wanted here." Ms Thomas, 52, spoke of a "campaign of terror" after Bailey's libel trial.

She told of threatening phone calls, claimed a dead rat was put through her letterbox and said she had a late-night prowler. Bailey sued seven newspapers claiming his reputation was damaged because, he said, they portrayed him as Sophie du Plantier's killer in 1996.

He has always denied being in any way involved in her death.

The libel actions failed against five of the newspapers, leaving him with costs estimated at EUR200,000. He is appealing the cases he lost.

CAPTION(S):

VIOLENT: Ian Bailey
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 23, 2004
Words:289
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