More than two decades after a woman was killed in an Irish village, French prosecutors hope to close the case

The tiny fishing village of Schull, in Ireland's southwest, was rocked by the brutal murder of French national Sophie Toscan du Plantier in 1996.

Schull, Ireland (CNN)Perched on a bench in the quiet courtyard of a pub, Ian Bailey is signing a copy of his self-published book of poetry for a young American woman. He then opens a folded paper printout of his latest work.

It best describes his current state of mind, he says.
The poem, "I'm feeling like John Wayne" describes a man aggrieved. The prose is pained and indignant -- a mood that's worlds away from the roar of laughter that flows from inside the packed pub.
    Schull, a picturesque fishing village nestled along the craggy coastline of Ireland's southernmost peninsula, sees a very short tourist season. But today, the rural community of 700 people is enjoying the atmosphere as hundreds flood the streets for its annual international film festival.
    The area of West Cork however, is no stranger to foreigners. It's long served as an outpost for artists from across the globe seeking solace and space, with its holiday homes and winding roads well traversed by wealthy travelers looking to disconnect from the daily grind.
    Bailey is one of those "blow-ins," a local term to describe a person not born in the locality. The Manchester, UK-born former journalist moved to the area in 1991 with a plan to focus on his writing and poetry, enticed by the lure of the area.
    So had Sophie Toscan du Plantier, a 39-year-old French television producer who found refuge from her busy Parisian life at her isolated farmhouse on the northern side of the Mizen peninsula, a 25-minute drive from Schull.
    It was an area where people would leave their keys in the doors in case a visitor got stuck in the rain but there was no one at home to receive them; a place where children were safe to run errands on their own because everyone knew who "belonged to who," according to a dozen locals that CNN spoke with.
    But all that changed on December 23, 1996, when Toscan du Plantier was found bludgeoned to death near the gate of her holiday home with some 50 wounds found on her slight frame.
    Sophie Toscan du Plantier is seen in this undated handout photo.
    Days after her murder, local police began questioning Bailey, who lived nearby and had been tasked with reporting on the murder for a national paper. He was arrested twice: first in February 1997 alongside his partner Jules Thomas and then again in January 1998.
    No forensic evidence linked Bailey -- or Thomas -- to the scene of the crime, and they were released without charge. Both have denied any involvement in Toscan du Plantier's death.
    Bailey's actions throughout the ordeal however, created a cloud of suspicion, according to many locals, one that has continued to follow him around West Cork in the two decades since.
    Weeks after the murder, Bailey's editor at the now defunct Sunday Tribune told police that he told her that he killed Toscan du Plantier to resurrect his career. According to police documents Bailey admitted it but said it was a joke.
    A 44-page file from the Irish Office of the Director of the Public Prosecution also reveals other alleged informal admissions by Bailey, but also notes that some of those statements were unreliable and that Bailey has always held a public position of innocence.
    In the years following his arrests, Bailey alleged he was wrongfully arrested and a victim of police corruption. In 2015, Bailey lost a civil action in the High Court on those claims. A subsequent review by the Irish policing watchdog found problems in the way that Bailey's arrest was handled, but concluded in 2018 that there was no evidence of police corruption.
    No one else has been charged for Toscan du Plantier's death as the years have passed.
    A memorial marks the spot where Sophie Toscan du Plantier was killed outside her holiday home in County Cork, Ireland.

    'Don't be surprised if you get arrested'

    In Goleen, a tiny village between Toscan du Plantier's farmhouse and Schull, one woman who asked not to be identified out of