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Monday 1 September 2014

Pistorius drops claims against assault accuser

Athlete settles dispute with woman, 19, injured at house party

FIONA FORDE in South Africa

Published 03/03/2013 | 05:00

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Cassidy Taylor-Memmory, left, and Oscar Pistorius

Murder-accused Oscar Pistorius has withdrawn a 2.2m Rand (€187,000) claim against a woman who was injured at his home in 2009. The move comes just one week after the famous athlete was released on R1m (€85,000) bail over the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at the same house.

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The Sunday Independent can exclusively confirm that Pistorius decided to withdraw the reputational damages claim against Cassidy Taylor-Memmory last Thursday and communicated his decision on Friday. He is also dropping a claim against her for damages to his property.

The matter dates back to September 12, 2009 when the 19-year-old injured her leg at his Silverwood home, in Pretoria, in what is alleged to have been a fit of rage on his part. He denied the complaint, claiming she was drunk and aggressive and drew the injuries upon herself. His case docket was quashed within hours of his arrest. Six months later, in March 2010, he slapped her with a R2.2m damages claim.

In the meantime, he chose to go public about the incident and in an interview with a local TV station claimed Ms Taylor-Memmory "had obviously drank too much and she got into a fight with someone", adding that he asked her to leave his house, but that she forgot "her handbag or something" and when she returned to retrieve it, "she tried to kind of open (the door) by kicking it through the splinters and the panel fell off . . . and fell on the ground and toppled over and hit her on the leg".

She denied this and lodged a counter-claim in 2010 demanding Pistorius make a public apology for alleging she was drunk and aggressive. For more than three years he refused to budge, but now he is making a dramatic U-turn. His lawyer, Gary Pritchard, declined to say whether his client has retracted the allegations or admitted culpability.

"The merits of the case are no longer relevant, as we are going to settle," he told the Sunday Independent. "And the terms of the settlement will be confidential."

Ms Taylor-Memmory's lawyer, Lidene Botha, of Pretoria-based Sarel Roux attorneys, has refused to confirm the settlement, stating only that "we are in talks and I am bound by a confidentiality clause".

Though the two cases Pistorius currently faces – the one civil and the other criminal – are entirely independent of one another, the move to withdraw the civil claim marks a major climbdown on the athlete's part while he is trying to prove his innocence in a charge of pre-meditated murder that has captured the world's attention.

Ms Steenkamp was killed at his Silverwood home on Valentine's Day when she sustained gunshot wounds to her head, hip and arm. Though Pistorius has admitted killing her with his own gun, he claims the shooting was accidental. The state has charged him with intentional murder, an offence that carries a mandatory life sentence.

It was also at his Silverwood home that the incident with Ms Taylor-Memmory took place, during a barbecue to celebrate a friend's 21st birthday three-and-a-half years ago. Ms Taylor-Memmory lives at the nearby Silver Lakes estate and attended the party with a group of her friends, one of whom – Melanie Rom – was dating Pistorius at the time.

According to Ms Taylor-Memmory's affidavit, Pistorius had a quarrel with Ms Rom that evening and when she and her friends sided with Ms Rom, Pistorius became visibly angry and asked them to leave.

However, Ms Taylor-Memmory had undergone surgery to her leg a couple of weeks earlier and was therefore slow on her feet and the last to vacate his premises.

In the process, she left some of her personal belongings behind. When she returned to retrieve them moments later, Pistorius flew into a temper, she claims. In her affidavit she argues that he slammed the front door in her face, causing wooden panels to fall from it and injure her left ankle. She denies kicking his door down, which she claims would have been impossible because of her recent surgery.

When she returned home that night, her mother reported the matter to police and Pistorius was arrested and held for some 17 hours.

The matter was investigated by detective Hilton Botha, who chose to believe the athlete's version of events. The docket was quashed the following day and Pistorius was released.

It was also Mr Botha who was called to the crime scene on February 14 when Ms Steenkamp was killed. He was later stood down from the case.

Contrary to media reports, both local and international, no charges were ever brought against Pistorius in 2009, nor was it Ms Taylor-Memmory who laid the initial complaint, but instead her mother. Therefore, Pistorius never had a legitimate case against Ms Taylor-Memmory all this time.

Yet when he subsequently slapped the teenager with the R2.2m suit the following March, he claimed she had damaged his reputation and caused him loss of income, as he was forced to cancel a speaking event. He also alleged that the publicity around his arrest had forced some of his sponsors to withdraw, according to Mr Pritchard.

Since the incident took place, three-and-a-half years ago, Pistorius has taken his case to three different law firms.

Shortly after Mr Pritchard came on board in January of this year, "I suggested a settlement, some time in February," he told the Sunday Independent, though he denies this was because he felt his client had a weak case. "When you can settle out of court, why go through a long and drawn-out court process?" he asked rhetorically.

Mr Pritchard was unable to say whether the settlement was first mooted before or after February 14, the day on which Pistorius killed Steenkamp.

Ms Taylor-Memmory's legal team was confident she had a winnable case all along and was prepared to go to court on February 20, the date for which the case was set down, and which, ironically, would have coincided with his bail hearing in the Steenkamp killing.

Irish Independent

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