Five-year fight for justice

2009-10-31 00:00

DETERMINED to seek justice for her loved one’s brutal death, Brigette Delport has spent the past five years fighting a legal system that she describes as frustrating.

Delport has, however, come out victorious in the inquiry into the death of James Taylor, her partner and the father of her daughter.

Taylor, one of the country’s top microlight pilots, was shot and killed outside the Tongaat police station in September 2004, allegedly by two policemen.

The father of two went to the police station to report being assaulted by two men outside the Sea Belle restaurant in La Mercy.

There, he encountered two policemen and a scuffle broke out between Taylor and the police. Taylor was shot and died at the scene.

His family launched their own investigation after they received conflicting reports about the circumstances surrounding his death. The Independent Complaints Directorate also launched an investigation into the shooting.

Earlier this week, the Verulam Magistrate’s Court found that one of the policemen was directly involved in the death of Taylor.

It has been a non-stop battle for Delport and Taylor’s family, who have had to hire private investigators and ballistics experts to help in the inquiry.

An emotional Delport told Weekend Witness that once the shock of Taylor’s death subsided, the stark reality that something was amiss quickly set in.

“We knew that something was terribly wrong and the initial conduct of the police was not orthodox. There were huge gaps in the recording of the events that took place for an incident of that enormity, things that weren’t dealt with by the authorities accordingly. It was a pathetic reflection of our police department,” she said.

She said the family decided to “follow our instincts” and discover the truth about Taylor’s death, despite the huge financial costs and emotional stress.

The family lost faith in police and the country’s judicial system.

“At that stage, we had no idea of how efficient our judicial system was, taking into account our faith in the police had been severely affec­ted. There was a mixed response from different members of the family, but it was decided that justice should be sought.”

Delport received a lot of criticism from people who felt she was wasting her time and admits that, at times, she also felt like giving up.

“We knew there would be constant reminders of how severe James’s death was and it was often very painful to have the book opened on a chapter you wanted to forget. All the way through it could become quite emotional.”

Delport thought the inquiry would yield a positive response, but the original docket went missing.

“After hours and hours of reconstructing the docket, along with numerous meetings, highs and lows, we were all set to go. The rest is history,” she said.

Delport said court procedures in South Africa are long and arduous.

“A lot of people in this country haven’t got the resources to seek justice and I believe because of this numerous bad deeds have been lost in the system, unrecognised, and justice did not take its course.”

Huge time lapses, intimidation and the high costs of maintaining a legal team added to Delport’s stress, but she refused to give up.

“This case started to consume me. I felt frustrated at not knowing whether a conclusion would be found [that would let] James rest. I continually felt that I was hanging in limbo,” she said.

The hardest part for Delport was watching her daughter question where her father was and what happened to him.

“How would she ever be able to trust the police, if this was the kind of example they set on duty and off. I also question how safe the citizens of our country really are.”

Delport hopes that her story will encourage people to pursue justice and eliminate a lot of pain that one suffers due to police negligence.

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