Journalist in Irish libel case admits 'trying to kill his lover'

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A freelance reporter who became the main suspect for the murder of a French film maker wrote in his private diaries that he had "actually tried to kill'' his partner in a drink-fuelled beating, a court was told yesterday.

Ian Bailey, 47, who is seeking libel damages against eight newspapers over claims that he was the likely killer of Sophie Toscan du Plantier at her Irish holiday home seven years ago, said he had no explanation for why he had written such words, but insisted that his history of domestic violence did not make him a murderer.

During his second day in the witness box at Ireland's most closely followed defamation case for decades, the English journalist also denied that he told a succession of friends and colleagues that he had murdered the 38-year-old Frenchwoman on 23 December 1996, saying that he had been merely recounting rumours circulating about him.

The Cork Circuit Court heard that Mr Bailey and his legal team had sought to play down the significance of at least three assaults by him between 1993 and 2001 on Jules Thomas, 53, a Welsh artist with whom he has lived for 13 years in the town of Schull in west Cork. But under cross-examination, the journalist, who reported extensively on Ms Du Plantier's death before his arrest seven weeks later, was shown an extract from an A4 notebook in which he described how he had beaten Ms Thomas in 1993.

Noting that he had consumed a bottle of whisky, a pint of porter, two pints of wine and a number of tequilas when the attack took place, Mr Bailey wrote: "I attacked and severely beat Jules to such an extent that she sought hospital treatment. I feel a sense of sickness at seeing my own account of that dreadful night. I actually tried to kill her. I have never had a history of violence towards women, yet of late I have on a number of occasions struck and abused my lover, a thing I have always considered to be the lowest a man can commit against one of the mother sex.''

The reporter, who was found guilty two years ago of another assault on Ms Thomas but has never been charged in relation to the death of Ms Du Plantier, admitted that the words reflected his feelings about the incident.

But when asked by Paul Gallagher, barrister for the newspapers, why he had admitted to himself that he tried to kill "the woman I love'', an admission which the lawyer said was more damning than anything published by the newspapers, Mr Bailey said: "I can't explain that.''

Mr Bailey is seeking damages totalling £175,000 against The Irish Sunday Independent, The Irish Star, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent on Sunday. The newspapers deny libel, saying their stories were true and accurate.

The case continues.