The woman, who asked not to be identified, told gardaí that self-confessed suspect Ian Bailey had told her he had met with Ms Toscan du Plantier — something Bailey has repeatedly denied.
Speaking last week, the witness said: “I am sure that he told me at the beginning that he had met her. He also said to me that he saw her on the ferry to Cape Clear Island.”
This backs up what the woman said in garda statements which are now over a quarter of a century old.
‘That must have been the time they saw me,’ he said
The now elderly lady — who met Ms Toscan du Plantier a number of times and still lives in the area — said she felt pain for the victim’s aged parents. She said she often passed the road which led to Sophie’s holiday home at Toormore and it always gave her a queasy feeling.
“I think about it almost daily,” she said. “Sophie was the most vivacious person — and then this happens to her in the middle of nowhere.”
The remoteness of the location is another reason gardaí believe the killing could have been carried out by a local.
In her original statement to investigators, taken at her home on February 11, 1997 — seven weeks after the murder on December 22, 1996 — the woman described a phone call she had received from Bailey earlier that day.
“I have already told you in a previous statement that Ian told me that he was going home that night at about 1.30am with Jules, but this morning he admitted to me that there was some time unaccounted for,” she declared.
“He said that he had got up out of bed to do some work on an article, and he went out. ‘That must have been the time they saw me,’ he said.”
Bailey had earlier allegedly told her “witnesses had come forward who had seen him down by the water or causeway”.
The statement continues: “He did not specify where exactly this water or causeway was. I said: ‘What were you doing there?’ And he said: ‘Oh, I suppose I was washing the blood off my clothes.’
“I felt he said that in a half-joking way. That basically was all he said in the phone call.”
Mr Bailey did not respond when contacted for comment last week.
Later this month, locals in Schull, West Cork, will hold a special commemorative concert for Sophie, expected to be attended by members of her family.
The not-for-profit event at the Harbour Hotel is likely to be part of a growing demand for action in the case by former friends and neighbours.