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Ian Bailey: British journalist suspected of Sophie Toscan du Plantier's murder dies in West Cork

Ian Bailey, the British journalist sentenced in his absence for the murder of a French film producer in Ireland, has died of a suspected heart attack aged 66, according to his solicitor.

Bailey was given a 25-year sentence in 2019 after a court in Paris found him guilty of killing Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork in 1996.

The 39-year-old, who was married to celebrated French filmmaker Daniel Toscan du Plantier - who worked with the likes of Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman - was found bludgeoned to death outside her holiday home near the coastal village of Schull on 23 December.

Bailey, who lived a few miles away and was the first reporter on the scene, covered her death as a journalist before being first questioned over her death in February 1997.

He became the key suspect because of scratches on his arms, which he said he got while cutting down a Christmas tree, an alleged history of domestic violence, and a local resident's report of seeing a man resembling his description on a bridge near the murder scene.

Read more: Why murder of French film producer is shrouded in mystery

But no forensic evidence ever linked him to the crime and he was never charged with the murder by Irish police.

In 2020, the Irish courts blocked his extradition to France - where the law allows suspects to be tried for murdering French citizens abroad - for the third time.

When Bailey was convicted, he had no legal representation for the case, did not attend court and described the whole situation as farcical.

He always maintained his innocence, continued to live in West Cork, and died in the coastal town of Bantry, where Irish media said he was living.

His solicitor Frank Buttimer, who has known Bailey since March 1997, said he was "very upset" to hear of his death.

"I knew Ian was very unwell, we were in communication in the past five days, but I didn't know he was terminally unwell," he said.

"He had a very severe heart condition, a very bad heart condition, and had cardiac events prior to Christmas.

"He was a candidate for surgical intervention but wasn't well enough, so he was trying to become well enough."

Bailey, who was born in Manchester, worked as a journalist in England before moving to West Cork in the mid-1990s where he also turned his hand to poetry, gardening and running a pizza stall with his former partner.