Sir Geoffrey Boycott was insensitive over controversy about his knighthood – but he’s no ‘woman beater’, says a former friend and business partner of his ex-girlfriend.
The England cricket legend sparked outrage when he said he ‘couldn’t give a toss’ about domestic abuse charities blasting Theresa May’s decision to give him the gong.
Boycott denied beating up former girlfriend Margaret Moore in the South of France in 1996.
But lawyer Sue Sims-Steward says although the 58-year-old speaks before he thinks, it doesn’t make him guilty of domestic violence.
England cricket legend Sir Geoffrey Boycott (left) was convicted of beating his then-girlfriend Margaret Moore (right) during a furious argument at a hotel in the south of France in 1996
Miss Moore (above after the attack) accused the cricketer of hitting her when she grabbed his expensive suit and tried to throw it out of a window, a claim Boycott himself has always denied
Mrs Sims-Steward told MailOnline: ‘I heard his Radio 4 interview and I can well understand the upset at women’s groups at his reaction and saying he couldn’t give a toss. It came across that he was talking about abuse in general and not the incident with Ms Moore.
‘I’ve seen the terror in the eyes of enough battered women and, ‘I don’t give a toss love’ in that way would be insensitive to say the least and I believe that this is what has enflamed the situation.’
But none of this, in her view, makes Boycott a ‘wife beater’.
Miss Moore suffered bruising to her forehead and black eyes in the 1996 assault in France
‘In the course of my career I have come across women who have suffered terribly as a result of domestic abuse. It tears them apart. I have witnessed it and taken them to refuges and they are terrified battered wives.
‘It can happen to women or to men and it’s a catalogue of abuse and they often live in fear of their lives. It’s never one isolated incident.
‘And in this instance, both parties told me the same story – that it was an isolated incident in their relationship and it was an accident so that does not make him a wife beater.’
Boycott has been persistently overlooked by the honours system since he was found guilty in a French court of hitting his then girlfriend Miss Moore in 1998.
The sportsman was given a suspended three-month jail sentence and fined £5,000 by the court in Grasse, France, and ordered to pay Miss Moore a symbolic one franc – worth 10p – in damages.
Mrs Sims-Steward was dragged back into the row 25 years after she gave evidence in a French court to support him, telling prosecutors that she believed that Boycott never hit his girlfriend.
The lawyer claimed she had knew the truth about the scandal because she said that Miss Moore told her it was an accident at the time.
Mrs Sims-Steward, now 58, was in business with Mrs Moore at the time of her relationship with the cricketer but the pair ended up falling out with her over unpaid debts.
Former England batsman turned cricket commentator Boycott sits in the Court of Appeal, in Aix-en-Provence, France, at the start of his appeal against Margaret Moore in 2000
She took her friend to court and the judgment happened to come just days after Mrs Moore had been injured while holidaying with Boycott in France.
Recalling that time in October 1996, she said: ‘I had known Margaret for about 18 months. I set up a business to work exclusively for her company and she provided me with accommodation in London.
‘She was divorced with two young children and we got on really well. We had similar tastes and she was great company and a lot of fun.
‘I knew she was in a relationship of sorts with Geoffrey and I knew she wanted to marry him, that was common knowledge but at the time of the incident she had a lot of financial troubles which he did not know about.
‘She owed me a lot of money and I had ended up taking her to court which was not ideal but all I could do.
Lawyer Sue Sims-Steward (pictured) said her former friend and business partner Miss Moore said she slipped and hit her head
‘She turned up for the judgment at the Royal Courts in London and I was told by her secretary and by my counsel that she had black eyes and she’d suffered an accident while on holiday.
‘What I remember clearly is her ringing me at the time to ask me to back off and give her more time to pay.
‘In the course of that conversation she told me what had happened with Geoffrey. She had been to France with him. They stayed at the Hotel du Cap, they’d had a row over them getting married.
‘He said, ‘I’m not marrying you’, the row took off, she started throwing his things out of the window. She grabbed one of his suits, there was a tussle over it and she slipped and hit her head and that’s how the whole thing happened.
‘I remember Margaret would always be wearing skyscraper heels. I’ve never known her in anything other than stilettos and the combination of them, a marble floor and a tussle caused the fall.
‘I also clearly remember her saying that this would give her a chance to make some money and pay off her debt.’ Miss Moore has always publicly maintained that the evidence that she gave about the incident was the truth. She gave an interview to a Sunday newspaper after the court case in which she confirmed what happened that night.
It was not until January of 1998 that news broke of Boycott’s conviction in a French court for domestic assault. He was not present at the hearing.
Mrs Sims-Steward said: ‘After the news broke of his conviction, I got legal advice and was told that it was my duty to the court to give the information I had and not withhold it.
‘I contacted his lawyer and that is when I found out that Margaret had been to Max Clifford and others in a bid to make money out of what had happened in France. Then it all began to fit together.
‘I went to Geoffrey’s appeal in France. It’s a long time ago but if you read the contemporaneous reports, you’ll understand that the French did not understand what it was all about. Why were we bothering them with such a trivial matter?
Boycott’s lover Miss Moore shows off the injuries she sustained during the assault for which the cricketer was given a suspended three month jail term and £5,000 fine in a French court
‘It’s not like in an English court. To them wife beating or partner beating is of no consequence. Why are you worried about it, what’s cricket, why have you sent over 15 people to bother us, go away.
‘I was only in court for a short period of time but I understand that there was an outburst from Geoffrey in court that didn’t help his cause.’
Mrs Sims-Steward has since lost contact with Margaret who was declared bankrupt in July 1998 and moved to Monaco to try to relaunch her computing business.
‘The last I heard was through a journalist,’ said Mrs Sims-Steward, ‘and that was to say that she’d had a stroke and not in a good way.
‘I felt very sorry for her. We may have fallen out and I was never paid my money but we were such good friends and I would not wish a stroke on anybody.’