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Every time there was a problem or he gave her a hammering he was out of the house; BAILEY SPLITS FROM LOVER JULES AFTER 13 YEARS.

Byline: DEIRDRE O'DONOVAN

MURDER suspect Ian Bailey has split from partner Jules Thomas, the Irish Sunday Mirror can reveal.

Ms Thomas, who Bailey admitted violently attacking on three separate occasions, had stood by the libel loser throughout his failed case against eight newspapers.

But the Welsh artist was nowhere to be seen as the damning verdict was read on Monday.

Now Bailey, 46, has not been seen at their home in Schull, Co Cork, since Monday's court appearance.

And last night people who know the volatile couple claimed that their 13-year relationship was now finished.

Michael Sheridan, author of a book on the murder of Sophie du Plantier and editor of Irish Crime magazine yesterday claimed Ms Thomas, 52, and Bailey split after an argument last Sunday night.

He added: "I was told there was a huge row in their house.

"She didn't appear at the court on Monday with him despite having been at his side throughout the case.

"Now he's disappeared and there are all sorts of rumours about what he's doing.

"But the people I talked to said that they were obviously under huge pressure during the court case and somebody used the excuse that she had a cold.

"But I believe there was nothing wrong with her at all.

"Their history came out in court that every time there was a problem there, or he gave her a hammering, he was out of the house for a while.

"When these incidents happened Bailey blamed 'pressure and drink' for the attacks on Jules.

"Obviously the strain on the both of them was huge during the trial.

"The couple have split on numerous occasions before and Bailey would stay with friends before they patched things up."

Bailey took the libel action against eight separate newspapers last December, claiming they fingered him as a suspect in the murder of French beauty Sophie du Plantier outside her West Cork home in 1996.

During the 10-day trial it emerged that Bailey kept a secret diary in which he detailed a horrific attack by him on his girlfriend.

It told how he pulled out clumps of Ms Thomas's hair, bit her arm, left her eye the size of a grapefruit and severed her lip from her gum.

It also emerged at Cork Circuit Civil Court that Bailey had assaulted Ms Thomas on THREE different occasions.

One attack took place in his car, a second when they were in a small bed together and he pushed her out and the third when he hit her with a crutch and badly injured her.

He told the trial: "During the 13 years we have been together we have had three fights."

The couple lived together in The Prairie Cottage near Schull just a few miles from du Plantier's home.

The court was told that the row in May 1996 began after Ms Thomas allegedly accused the journalist of interfering with her 18-year-old daughter Virginia, although he denied having heard of such an allegation.

When shown photographs of the injuries inflicted on his lover by him and asked his opinion of the attack, Bailey said: "It was not very nice at all."

And when pressed about the issue by lawyer Paul Gallagher, appearing for the newspapers, he admitted: "It is appalling."

But Bailey defended the attack, which took place in their car as they were driving home from a party, by stating it would never have happened if they had both stayed sober.

And he accused his lover of starting the fight by trying to scratch his face.

He said: "It was not planned or premeditated. It was something that happened in the heat of the moment. I tried to push her away. She started biting me. Yes, I lost control on the night.

"My behaviour was very bad and I am ashamed of it. I have taken steps to correct it.

"I pushed her away with my open palm and her hair came out".

He agreed her lip was severed from her gum and that she needed eight stitches to put it together again. She also had bite marks on her hand and arm which he said happened when she put her hand up to his face.

He said: "I was trying to drive the car and she was trying to scratch me."

But even when Bailey and Ms Thomas arrived home he did not try to get medical help for her and it was left to her daughter Virginia to call a neighbour.

The court heard the girl was screaming at Bailey to give her the keys of the car so she could take her mother to the hospital but he would not hand them over.

During this time Ms Thomas had gone into her bedroom where she was curled up and screaming in pain.

Bailey was barred from the house because of the terrible assault after his partner secured a barring order, but they later made up and he returned home.

Mr Gallagher asked if he accepted that he had lost control. Bailey told the court: "I did not intend to hurt her. What can I say? Yes, I lost control to a degree. I hurt her. These are things that happen. Jules was coming at me and I was caught in a difficult situation."

Asked why he did not contact a doctor for his partner when he knew she was badly hurt, he said: "I think Ginny called a neighbour and the doctor. She took control. I was also very upset over what had happened.

"It was appalling what happened. On this occasion I was violent, but I am not a violent person."

But the court disagreed and in reading his judgment on Monday, Judge Patrick Moran described Bailey's violent acts as "exceptional" as he dismissed six claims for libel against eight newspapers.

He now faces a legal bill of around EUR500,000 and gardai may reopen the case after the DPP asked for a transcript of the trial following the judge's findings at the end of the 10-day hearing.

And neighbours of the couple are furious with claims made by Ms Thomas that she is the victim of a vicious hate campaign.

This week the mother-of-three told how she had received threatening phone calls, had a dead rat put through her letter box and had a late night prowler.

Ms Thomas added: "I've had threatening phone calls and they are pretty unpleasant to deal with. The post was interfered with, there was some pretty foul stuff put in the post box as well including a dead rat.

"Somebody else threw petrol in a bottle over the gate so it landed just inside the property. That's not very nice at all, none of it is nice.

"There has been a prowler coming around at night with a torch. I'm here on my own, it's quite frightening really."

Ms Thomas said she had "absolutely no doubt" that it was intimidation aimed at her.

She added: "It's my property. It's upsetting my life. I don't think people should take the law into their own hands like this.

"There has been a horrible silent atmosphere of sort of Ku Klux Klan like."

But she refused to reveal where Bailey has gone yesterday, adding: "He's not here. I'm not saying anything. I wouldn't say he had fled, I'd say it's more protection for me not being here."

But one neighbour, who did not wish to be named rubbished the claims, saying the people of Schull were very tolerant.

He said: "It's a bit ridiculous at this stage to be claiming she has been intimidated over the past seven days.

"Surely if that were the case then they would have suffered intimidation over the past seven years.

"Obviously I can't speak for everyone but for years all different kinds of people have lived here in Schull. It is very much a 'live and let live' attitude here."

CAPTION(S):

LOSER: Bailey failed to win his libel case last week; VICTIM: Sophie was killed in 1996; SUPPORT: Jules Thomas backed Bailey during his court case
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 25, 2004
Words:1347
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