A former British journalist will today be tried in his absence for the murder of a French filmmaker in Ireland.

Ian Bailey, 62, has always vehemently denied involvement in the death of Sophie Toscan du Plantier.

The body of the 39-year-old was found badly beaten on an isolated hillside in Toormore, near Schull, west Cork, two days before Christmas in 1996.

Evidence will be presented before three judges in a Paris courtroom this week. Bailey will not attend, having successfully opposed two bids by the French authorities to extradite him from Ireland.

Sophie Toscan du Plantier
Sophie Toscan du Plantier’s body was found badly beaten on an isolated hillside in Toormore (Family Handout/PA)

Under French law, prosecutions can been taken in France for the murder of French citizens overseas.

The trial is the latest legal twist in one of Ireland’s most high-profile unsolved murder cases. The circumstances around Ms Toscan du Plantier’s death have recently reached a global audience through the popular podcast series West Cork.

Originally from Manchester but living in west Cork since the mid-1990s, Mr Bailey was twice arrested in Ireland in connection with the murder but never charged.

Ireland’s Director of Public Prosecutions decided that he should not be prosecuted.

The Irish High Court branded the most recent attempt to extradite him an “abuse of process”.

Bailey’s lawyer fears the authorities in France will press for extradition for a third time if the court convicts him this week. Solicitor Frank Buttimer has dismissed the proceedings as a “show trial”.

Ms Toscan du Plantier was married to the late Daniel Toscan du Plantier, a major player in French cinema who had close contacts with the upper echelons of government in Paris.

Her son Pierre-Louis Baudey-Vignaud, who was 14 when she was murdered, has been at the forefront of the family’s campaign for justice.

Earlier this month he travelled to west Cork and appealed to local people to come forward to testify at the Paris trial.

Mr Bailey, who once ran his own freelance news agency in Cheltenham, no longer works as a journalist. In more recent times he has pursued interests in gardening and poetry.