Boycott found guilty of assaulting woman friend

John Lichfield
Wednesday 11 November 1998 01:02 GMT

GEOFFREY BOYCOTT was found guilty of assault for a second time yesterday when a French judge decided that the former England opening batsman had made a brutal attack on his girlfriend in an Antibes hotel two years ago. He was fined pounds 5,300 and given a three months suspended jail sentence.

The cricketer-turned-commentator immediately appealed against the conviction. He also made a side-swipe against the court in Grasse, south-east France. "In the view of the way the trial was conducted," he said, "I suppose it is not a total surprise."

Speaking from Pakistan, where he was commentating on the Australian cricket tour for Rupert Murdoch's Star TV, he added: "When I went to see Fatal Attraction [a movie about a vengeful, jilted lover] I never thought it could happen to me."

While Boycott appears confident of his future, there are black holes where contracts used to be. He no longer works for the BBC, there are no deals with Sky, and his contract with Trans World International, which feeds cricket coverage to local networks such as India and Pakistan - where the Cult of Boycott is strongest - ended at close of play in Lahore yesterday. There was a further blow last night when The Sun announced that his column would no longer be featured in the newspaper.

The proceedings in Grasse last month were rumbustious, chaotic, often baffling, almost out of control, but most independent observers present - including the massed ranks of the British press corps - thought the cricket legend got a reasonable innings.

Perhaps too reasonable. Many of the 13 defence witnesses flown by Boycott to the south of France - at a cost estimated to have topped pounds 200,000 - appeared to have nothing directly relevant to say.

The judge, Dominique Haumant-Daumas, indulged Boycott and his lawyer when they presented hours of muddled evidence from, among others, a psychiatrist who had never met the victim, Margaret Moore, 46. (He judged her, from television clips and conversations with a former husband, to be a "hysterical psychopath".)

There were also three British women who travelled to France at Mr Boycott's expense to say they had suffered similar injuries to Ms Moore - two black eyes, severe bruising on the face - just by falling over in the street or at home. If it was a circus, it was mostly a circus of Boycott's making.

After presiding over the 10-hour trial of "L'Affaire Boycott", Judge Haumant-Daumas decided yesterday, in a delayed verdict, to deliver precisely the same judgment as another judge who conducted the original, ten-minute trial in January. The first trial was set aside because the 58-year-old former cricketer failed to turn up, saying he had a more important engagement commentating on Test matches in South Africa.

Ms Moore, a divorcee with two children, claimed Boycott punched her 20 times in the face, head and chest, holding her to the ground and staring at her with "wild, piercing and manic" eyes. Boycott insisted she fell over while throwing his shirt, shoes and underpants out of a hotel window during a quarrel.

In a seven-page written explanation of her verdict, the judge made it clear that Boycott's behaviour in court - telling Ms Moore's lawyer to "shut up" at one stage - had counted against him. "In the court, the accused didn't hesitate to interrupt rudely Mrs Moore's lawyer, tarnishing the image of the perfect gentleman which he brought his old friends and witnesses to testify to."

Judge Haumant-Daumas said the evidence presented to the court "did not support the theory of an accidental fall". She had decided that Ms Moore was the victim of "purposeful blows".

Ms Moore, who returned to Grasse for the judgment, said she was delighted with the verdict. "I am the victim here. He beat me three times in all. I want to urge every person who has suffered violence to report it to the police." She was, once again, awarded the 1 franc (10.5 pence) symbolic damages that she had requested.

The Third French Test - Mr Boycott's appeal - is expected to be heard in the Provencal appeal court at Aix-en-Provence at a date to be fixed next year.

In the meantime, Ms Moore is not holding out much hope that the Yorkshireman's Yorkshireman will pay her the damages. "I don't think I'll get my franc because he is a little tight-fisted," she said. "If I get a cheque I'll frame it and if I don't I'll send him a writ."

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