performed by Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde
Available on Audible, currently free for members, West Cork discusses the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier and the investigation into the prime suspect, Ian Bailey.
West Cork is a compelling look into the case. It’s well researched and includes all perspectives on the case, from the locals to the culprit, the people who knew the culprit before the murder, experts on the case, and family members of the victim.
I like that we actually hear them giving their statements and interviews, that it’s not being read out constantly by Sam Bungey or Jennifer Forde instead. It feels more personal and authentic that way. You get a real sense of the seclusion of West Cork, and how gossip works in small towns and villages. The growing mistrust people had for Ian Bailey is completely believable, and comes across in all of the interviews done discussing his involvement.
Something I enjoy about certain true crime podcasts and shows is that they highlight how shoddy the actual investigations can be. Corruption of evidence, manipulation of eyewitness statements, so many complications. There are certain eyewitnesses who should have definitely been criminally charged, and I’m shocked that they didn’t. Every part of the investigation, I believe, gets the attention it deserves, including humanising du Plantier.
However, while West Cork does this less than some other cases, and shows the life of the victim with a thoroughness many other victims fail to receive in most true crime investigations, it still feels like too much time was spent on Bailey.
I understand he was the prime suspect, but Ian Bailey is, from the start of the podcast, a clear narcissist. He’s arrogant and generally unpleasant to listen to, and he frustrated me to no end, so a lot of this podcast feels like he’s being enabled. It’s good that he’s frustrating, because that means you get a real sense of his personality. He’s not enabled in the sense of painting him as a good person: he’s obviously not, and they don’t shy away from showing his worse qualities.
From the conversations with his partner, however, it’s clear he’s a manipulator, relying on her for complete absolution from any crime he may have committed through gaslighting. While he may not be a murderer, he’s guilty of hurting his partner, emotionally and physically, manipulating her to an extreme level, and I know that because I’ve seen this exact same behaviour in person and have fallen victim to it more than once.
Remaining unbiased is impossible for me in this scenario, because while I can question if he committed this crime, there’s no part of me that doesn’t believe he harbours a deep hatred for women in how he excuses his actual, proven crimes. And the researchers deciding to remain unbiased feels like a failure to me. You don’t have to accuse him of murder, but expressing some opinion on the fact that he abused his partner feels like it was a massive void in their investigation.
The impression the researchers want to give on Bailey is skewed and confusing. An actual documentary that I feel does this angle better is the Savile documentary by Louis Theroux, where he recounts his meetings with Jimmy Savile and talks about accountability and manipulation, which opens your eyes a lot more to the measures Ian Bailey takes to be in the limelight. While the crimes are different, the narcissism and arrogance of men who grew up at a time where they believed their behaviour was not just excusable, but warranted, is very evident, but this podcast doesn’t quite hit the mark in giving an in depth look into that mentality.
Overall, a quick and interesting look into a crime I was unaware of beforehand, but I still feel that there are other true crime investigations that are more thorough. I won’t return to this podcast, even though I enjoyed listening to it and familiarising myself with the case.
Content warning: descriptions of violence, violence against women, assault, alcohol abuse
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