Justice in pilot's death

2011-03-17 00:00

The South African Police Force has admitted liability for the death of KwaZulu-Natal pilot, James Taylor (43) who was shot dead during a scuffle with a policeman at Tongaat police station on the night of September 19, 2004, and have agreed to make an interim payment of R499 999 towards the support of Taylor’s daughter.

The money is to be paid into an attorney’s trust account by April 4, in terms of an order agreed to by the parties this week.

The final quantum payable by the State arising from Taylor’s death will be decided by the high court in May. Trial dates for the hearing have yet to be finally decided.

Taylor’s former partner, Brigette Delport, approached the high court last year in a bid to obtain financial security for the couple’s daughter, 10-year-old Riley Taylor, but the State opposed the damages claim totalling R6,5 million.

Taylor was supporting his daughter financially at the time of his death.

The civil dispute followed a finding by inquest magistrate, Ruby Poobalan in October 2009, that the Tongaat policeman who allegedly pulled the trigger on the gun that killed Taylor, was liable for prosecution.

The inquest found that policemen involved in the investigation into the shooting incident had tried to hamper the investigation, that policemen were guilty of “gross dereliction of duty” and that senior members of the Independent Complaints Directorate were involved in trying to influence the investigation.

Tewari is currently facing a charge of murder in the regional court arising from the incident.

The Witness reported last week that Tewari gave evidence at the start of the civil trial in the high court and admitted that his finger could have been in the trigger guard of his pistol when he and Taylor struggled for it at the police station on the fatal night. He said he was holding the grip of the pistol while Taylor was pulling at the barrel.

Evidence was led that the shooting occurred after Taylor arrived at the police station to report an assault on him by off-duty plainclothes policemen at the Sea Belle restaurant earlier that night. Tewari testified he was at the charge office when Taylor drove up fast and parked near Tewari’s vehicle. He thought that Taylor needed something urgently and he asked if he could help him.

Tewari said, “He walked up fast and said he had been assaulted by policemen and was going to kill me. He slapped me with his right hand across my left cheek. I fell down. He pulled on the strap of my automatic rifle and then pulled my pistol from its holster on my left side. I grabbed at it and as we struggled the shot went off.”

Delport declined to speak to The Witness this week in the wake of the settlement reached, but referred the matter to her attorney who also did not wish to comment yesterday.

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