By PETER MARTIN and TELFORD VICE
Family and friends of convicted rapist Dion Taljard have thrown their weight behind the former Border cricketer, saying they would do all in their power to clear his name.
Taljard was sentenced to 18 years in jail after being convicted on 19 counts of rape in Manchester, UK, on Wednesday.
The 47-year-old, from a well-known sporting family in East London, moved to Britain 17 years ago.
According to evidence and testimony presented to Minshull Street Crown Court‚ Taljard attacked a woman‚ who has not been named because she is a victim of sex crime, more than 150 times between 2002 and 2012 before she reported him to police in February 2015.
“The majority of the rapes happened on a Monday when he was at the darts and was drunk‚” prosecutor Nicholas Clarke told the court.
“He would say ‘I want to have sex with you’‚ ‘you will comply’. There were innumerable times when they had sex without her consent.”
Taljard’s distraught twin brother Mark yesterday said he would do everything in his power to clear his brother’s name.
At first Mark, a prominent Eastern Cape hockey administrator, was reluctant to talk but eventually opened up and claimed his twin was innocent.
“We know he is innocent … if the Daily Dispatch writes anything about the case without knowing the true facts, I will sue them,” he vowed.
“My advocate in Cape Town will be on the case immediately. I know my brother. He would never do anything like this at all,” he said.
Mark believes his brother will be released on parole in nine years, unless his name can be cleared, and added that the news of his sentencing upset his parents, who live in East London.
“But we will clear his name,” he vowed.
Taljard’s former teammate and fellow fast bowler, Tyron Henderson, was shocked to hear of the conviction.
“I just can’t believe it,” he said. “I know ‘Tallies’ well. In fact my wife and I have visited him in England and even stayed over at his house.
“Dion is all heart, there’s not a malicious bone in his body; he’s a great guy.
“Ironically, I got my first chance with Border when Dion wasn’t fit enough for a match, and I played back in 1998,” he said.
In sentencing Taljard‚ Judge Maurice Green told him: “You used violence towards this woman over and above even the rapes themselves.
“You manipulated her and sent her threatening text messages to her to get your own way.
“She was afraid of you. On one occasion she went missing and had to have a police helicopter to look for her.
“She described herself as at rock bottom and suicidal. She felt downgraded and intimidated on many‚ many occasions.
“This was because of what you had done to her.”
The news will shock many who shared dressing rooms with Dion during his professional career of more than 20 years in South Africa and‚ at club level‚ in Britain.
“What is clear is that you are particularly liked by many‚ many people‚” Judge Green said.
“You were a professional sportsman and I have read nine testimonials from people who say you are an honest and trustworthy person.”
Some of Dion’s supporters have set up an online petition to fund his appeal.
“The whole case was planned and thought up by [the victim] who … continued on a mission to get him totally out of her life‚” according to “Justice for Dion”‚ which appears to be run by Taljard’s girlfriend‚ Jacqueline Costello.
“She played the system because she worked in the system and an innocent man will now never get the chance to see his aging family in South Africa or his beautiful three daughters ever again.
“We need to get justice for this wonderful‚ caring‚ hardworking man who would do anything for anyone.”
On Thursday morning‚ the site said it had raised £2400 (about R42000) of its target of £30000 (about R526000).
Julie Rachman wrote on the website: “The truth must come out. I’ve known and was engaged to Dion in South Africa. He’s such a gentleman and would never hurt a soul.”
On his Facebook page Dion claimed he was innocent: “I have not done any of what I have been accused and found guilty of.”
Dion played 25 first-class matches for Border between October 1993 and October 1999‚ taking 60 wickets at 30.93 with two five-wicket hauls.
One of the latter was claimed against Pakistan at Buffalo Park in East London in February 1998‚ when Dion took a career-best 6/49.