Pistorius assault case: Lawyers in talks over legal fees
On her twitter page, Cassidy Taylor-Memmory describes herself as "a believer in peace and love". This past February 14, Valentine's Day, she tweeted a poignant message: "Sending love & prayers to the Steenkamp family on this difficult day – may you rest in peace beautiful #Reeva ♡."
The tweet is all the more poignant because 21-year-old Taylor-Memmory has her own legal history with "Blade Runner" Oscar Pistorius, who has been accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius claims he shot the blonde model through the toilet door, believing a burglar had gained access to his home on the luxury Silver Woods Estate in Pretoria.
In the wake of Steenkamp's death, confidential settlement talks between the legal teams representing Pistorius and Taylor-Memmory have escalated on an urgent basis. The sticking point as both parties moved to resolve the dispute this week was the demand by Taylor-Memmory for Pistorius to pay her legal fees, expected to be less than a R1-million.
For three years Taylor-Memmory has been fighting the R2.2-million civil claim brought against her by Pistorius after he alleged she laid assault charges against him, which led to his loss of income. Her lawyer Lidene Botha of SRoux in Pretoria claims the civil claim is spurious, as her client never laid an assault charge against him. Pistorius's legal team have also not provided them with proof that he was held in a cell overnight, she said.
In response to the claim by Pistorius, Taylor-Memmory laid a counterclaim, merely asking for a public apology. "For my client, it was never about the money," said Botha. "She just wants to be free of this case, which has hanging over her head."
If the case had gone to court, it would have been riveting as it involved a pretty young student, a double amputee turned athletic superstar, and a broken front door.
Pistorius has accused Taylor-Memmory of consuming alcohol and becoming abusive to other guests at the party. He alleged he asked her to leave and she was escorted out, and he closed the door behind her. "Clearly aggrieved at the fact that I had asked her to leave my residence, the complainant proceeded to kick the door with her foot repeatedly, which caused the door to break," Pistorius said in his media statement released at the time. " A piece of the broken door struck the complainant and it is alleged that she sustained a minor injury to her leg."
Taylor-Memmory, on the other hand, claims he slammed a door on her at the party at his house, injuring her ankle.
In court, the focus from her team would have been on whether the door was broken from the inside by Pistorius or from the outside by Taylor-Memmory, who was at the time an 18-year old student. Taylor-Memmory's legal team said experts who had examined the door would have been brought in to the courtroom to give their opinions.
Witnesses would also have been called on both sides, as there were many people around on the night of September 12 2009 when Pistorius held the party at his house.
Six months after the party, Pistorius lodged his claim against her, claiming a loss of earnings after sponsors pulled out on hearing he had been detained.
Pistorius' lawyer Gary Pritchard of Routledge Modise Attorneys confirmed the settlement negotiations look set to conclude but declined to reveal any further details. "Contrary to reports last weekend, my client's claim has not been withdrawn," he said. "I can only confirm the confidential settlement negotiations are continuing."
Ironically, the officer on this case was Warrant Officer Hilton Botha, who was also the lead investigator into Steenkamp's death. Botha was removed from the murder case after it was found he was facing seven charges of attempted murder for shooting at a taxi he suspected was carrying a suspect.
The Mail & Guardian sent questions to the police, in an effort to ascertain who laid an assault charge in the Taylor-Memmory case and whether there were records to show Pistorius was held in a cell overnight three years ago. The police responded by calling the M&G to say the police were all involved in the National Police Day around the country on Wednesday, and would have difficulty responding. No responses were received.
Botha could not be reached for comment.