We all love a good mystery; phenomenal ratings for such true-crime documentaries as The Disappearance of Maura Murray and The Staircase more than prove that salient point. And if the mystery in question – such as the aforementioned case of vanished college student Maura Murray, missing without explanation since 2004 – remains unsolved, so much the better. A feeling is cultivated as we enter these strange puzzles without any discernible resolution that perhaps we might take a page from masters of the mystery Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie and solve what a veritable army of people who are paid to do just that could not bring to a satisfactory conclusion themselves. Perhaps this explains the unending appeal, too, of Unsolved Mysteries where viewers are outright encouraged to pick up magnifying glass and a Basil Rathbone-like deerstalker cap.
Following the above logic comes the news from our brethren at The Hollywood Reporter that renowned six-time Oscar nominee director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, Dream House) will be tackling a five part documentary series with Sky Studios forebodingly titled Murder at the Cottage: The Search for Justice for Sophie, effectively throwing his own hat in the true life docuseries crime genre.
Sheridan’s pentalogy will study the very cold case of the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier in West Cork back in 1996 and it’s a mystery well worth some renewed due diligence: On December 23, ’96 the wife of French filmmaker Daniel Toscan du Plantier, Sophie, was found murdered at the couple’s holiday cottage which was located in Schull, West Cork. All of these years later, the death remains unsolved, with many eyes locked on an English journalist by the name of Ian Bailey as a prime suspect. Bailey has always denied any involvement in this dark chapter.
Murder at the Cottage is being produced by Hell’s Kitchen in conjunction with Sky Studios. This foray into the unsolved docuseries genre will mark Sky’s first effort in this particular niche. Sky is promising that their efforts have landed them access to the people closest to the case up to and including suspect Bailey and the victim’s family.
Sheridan, a meticulous filmmaker (which should lend itself well indeed to his investigative efforts in this eerie case) directs Murder at the Cottage as well as narrates the proceedings along with appearing onscreen. It is promised that the vaunted filmmaker’s new exploration of this haunting case has taken great pains to piece together original evidence and compiled unseen film footage along with interviews with the people most closely associated with it, all in a final and exhaustive effort to make heads or tails out of what happened to Sophie Toscan du Plantier in the rural countryside of Cork on one cold and dark night just before Christmas.
Jim Sheridan issued a statement saying that this was a story “that has fascinated me for over two decades. It is a murder that carries implications for the meaning of justice in Ireland, in France and in the U.K. It is a murder that calls into question the meaning of Europe, as the convicted man in France is free in Ireland. It is a story that calls into question the meaning and process of the police and the legal system. It is a story that shines a light on domestic violence. It is a story about primal fear. About a devil in the hills. About the existence of evil among us. I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this series, but in particular to Sophie’s family who are still searching for justice.”
Murder at the Cottage is anticipated to debut on Sky Crime in the U.K. and Ireland sometime next year.