Jules Thomas, the former partner of Ian Bailey murder suspect Sophie Toscan du Plantier, has been sued in a defamation lawsuit alleging that a major documentary series attempted to portray her as an accomplishment in the unsolved murder.
The Welsh-born artist on Monday launched a case against Netflix, director John Dower and production company Lightbox Media over the widespread allegations Sophie: A Murder in West Cork documentations.
She broke her silence on the lawsuit and told that Irish Independent: “You tried to portray me as an achievement of murder.
“People have seen it all over the world, not just in Ireland. It just portrays an image of me in a completely wrong light.”
Ms Thomas, 73, is to seek damages for damage to her reputation and claims her work as an artist dried up after the show was streamed last year.
She further alleges that unauthorized filming took place at her home near Schull, Co Cork and also wants some of the documentation removed.
This related to claims by an Italian woman that she saw Mr Bailey’s jacket soaked in a large bucket in the shower at Ms Thomas’ home after the murder.
Ms Thomas said the allegation was “completely false”.
“The whole thing was so damaging. I’ve had enough of this. I want to put an end to this and please no more lies,” she said.
The creators of the series, which launched in June last year, did not respond to requests for comment on their claims.
Ms Thomas will apply to the High Court next Monday for service of the proceedings on the proposed defendants, as they are all overseas.
She would also have to file an application to extend the 12-month period for filing a defamation lawsuit. Courts may extend this period to two years if deemed appropriate in the interest of justice.
Speaking of Irish IndependentMs Thomas said the fallout from Ms Toscan du Plantier’s murder had consumed most of her adult life and she hoped the lawsuit would help “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 beaten to death outside her holiday home in Toormore near Schull in December 1996.
Gardaí became suspicious of Mr Bailey, an English-born journalist who covered the hunt for the killer for several newspapers.
Both he and Ms Thomas were arrested twice but released without charge.
A DPP report, which destroyed the Garda investigation, ruled out prosecuting Mr Bailey on the basis of insufficient evidence.
However, Mr Bailey was found guilty of murder by a court in France after he was tried in absentia in 2019.
The Supreme Court then refused to extradite him to France.
Ms Thomas was not interviewed for the Netflix documentaries.
Much of her lawsuit relates to an interview filmed with Arianna Boarina, an Italian friend of Ms Thomas’ daughter Jennifer, who was staying with the artist over the 1996 Christmas period.
In a chilling scene interspersed with mocked footage of a dirty bathroom, Ms Boarina said: “I remember taking a shower. There was a big bucket in the shower. A dark coat was soaked in it. heavy material. I thought it was Ian’s coat.
“I would say that’s 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 distinctly that it was unusual.”
Ms. Thomas disputes this representation. “There was never a bucket of anything in the bathtub,” she said.
Earlier this year, Mr Bailey claimed Ms Boarina was “forced” to give the interview at a time when she was “emotionally vulnerable”.
Ms. Boarina’s portrayal in the documentation differs from a statement she made to Gardaí in 1999.
In the statement, she said: “While I was at Jules’ house during this time, I remember seeing clothes getting soaked in the bath tub.
“These were dark clothes, but I can’t tell what kind of clothes they were, other than that they were dark.”
The statement did not refer to a coat or who owned the clothes.
tea Irish Independent tried to speak to Ms. Boarina by phone and text, but she did not answer.
Neither Mr. Dower nor Lightbox responded to requests for comment.
Earlier this year, however, the director said it was “absolutely and utterly wrong that she was being coerced into an interview.”
Mr Dower insisted Ms Boarina was happy to do the interview and that she had said she wished she had been reported years earlier.
Ms Thomas also said she was upset with the way her home was portrayed in the Netflix series.
“They took pictures of the bathroom and kitchen as a smelly mess, as a really dirty shack. It’s not my home. I was pretty fed up with that,” she said.
The artist claims that while she was working in her studio, her property was filmed without her consent.
She claims drones flew over her home, which she described as “really invasive.”
It is unclear who flew the drones. Ms Thomas said she suffered financially after the production was released.
“I’ve lost a lot of money because of that because people don’t want to get near someone who’s connected to a murder.
“Before, a lot more people would come to me for paintings and heritage works and all sorts of things. That has collapsed enormously [after the docuseries].
“I went to galleries for a couple of years and they took my work and they sold and then suddenly, no, they wouldn’t take my work.
“It’s a fun old shop that sells art. It’s irregular. But I know people who like my work.
“And a lot of people bought it. I wasn’t too expensive. I was reasonable. So they would come back for more. But then it almost came to a standstill.
“There are always some people who are sympathetic and who believe you, but in the general face of the public I get a lot of funny looks. It’s just uncomfortable.”
Ms Thomas said she worries people watching the documentaries would think: “I was just covering for Ian and I’m a silly little yes-woman”.
“But no, I’ve never lied. 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 unable to hide his feelings. I could read it like a book.
“If he had done something like that, I would have known. He’s messy. I would have seen blood. I would have seen all sorts of things.”
Ms Thomas said she ended their relationship last year because she wanted to move on with her life.
“It was awful, really, really awful living with the strain,” she said.
“He never stopped talking about the whole case. At night it could be the last. I said please don’t talk about it last night. It only wakes me up 10 times a night, which it did. But he never stopped. He was like a cracked record.”
And while she believes he’s innocent, they don’t talk anymore. “We’re not friends. We don’t see each other. I don’t know where he lives. Somewhere near Bantry I think. We have no contact at all,” she said.
Ms. Thomas’ lawsuit is the second related to the documentaries. Jennifer Forde and Sam Bungey, producers of the well-received West Cork podcast, have also filed lawsuits against Netflix, Mr Dower and Lightbox.
Details of this case have yet to be announced.
Sophie: A Murder in West Cork was one of two documentaries that brought international attention to the unsolved murder in the past year. Oscar-nominated director Jim Sheridan was also released Murder in the Shack: Finding Justice for Sophie.
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