Margaret Moore told a packed French courtroom in January 1998 that Sir Geoffrey Boycott pinned her down and punched her more than 20 times.
“He’s a very strong man. I was screaming and screaming. I couldn’t stop him,” she said. The former England cricketer, meanwhile, insisted his ex-girlfriend had bumped her head while drunkenly “hitting and kicking” him – a claim she furiously denied.
The magistrates believed Ms Moore and delivered a guilty verdict that has since cast a long shadow over Sir Geoffrey’s career and reputation.
But more than 20 years later, The Daily Telegraph has uncovered new evidence that – according to Sir Geoffrey’s friends – may raise doubts about Ms Moore’s story.
Months after the first trial, it can be disclosed, Ms Moore was reported to police after allegedly attacking another man during a jealous rage before attempting to throw a stewardess off a luxury yacht.
The incident is said to have taken place on the French Riviera in summer 1998. Speaking out for the first time, the yacht’s captain and the stewardess separately recalled how Ms Moore had behaved like a raging “pit bull” during a trip only weeks after the Boycott trial. Both questioned whether Sir Geoffrey had been wrongfully convicted.
“After what I saw, I am not so sure that [Sir Geoffrey] is guilty as charged,” Chas McLaren, the captain, said. Ms Moore, now aged 67 and living near Monaco, admitted last night that she had chartered a yacht at around that time with a “friend”, Sir Nicholas Scott, the former Conservative MP who died in 2005. But she insisted she had no memory of attacking Sir Nicholas or the stewardess. A separate source close to Ms Moore’s family, however, confirmed there had been an “incident on a boat” in the summer of 1998.
Last week, news of Sir Geoffrey’s knighthood prompted an outcry from domestic violence campaigners who said he was unworthy of the honour. But friends said the new evidence suggested he had fallen victim to a miscarriage of justice because Ms Moore was “clearly violent when drunk”, and “totally unreliable”.
“She was a bunny boiler who came after Geoffrey for his money,” a close friend of Sir Geoffrey claimed.
Speaking in the French town of Antibes, Mr McLaren said Ms Moore’s behaviour had “preyed on my conscience” ever since, because he now believes Sir Geoffrey may be innocent.
Mr McLaren, 66, said he was skippering a luxury launch called Sportsman in the summer of 1998 when he got a call to take Ms Moore and a companion on a long weekend cruise.
On the second day, Ms Moore turned on Nicole Di Martino, the yacht’s chef and stewardess, Mr McLaren said.
“Nicole’s presence seemed to be like a red rag to a bull and became increasingly so the more champagne she drank,” he said. “Clearly a bit of drunken jealousy, I thought. Nicole was a French brunette.
“Then the man and Ms Moore went down to the cabins for a while and then suddenly I heard a cry for help from the man. I ran down to the cabins and he was standing there in his trunks and an open shirt with blood pouring down his chest and blood on his face, where there were scratch marks. He looked like he had been in a fight.”
Mr McLaren says he then threatened to end the charter. He took the bleeding man up on deck, and dressed his wounds with antiseptic.
“The next thing I know is there’s a huge scuffle and Ms Moore is trying to push Nicole off the back of the boat, just where the propellers were churning,” he said. “Nicole was hurt and in a lot of pain, but Ms Moore reached for more champagne.” When contacted by The Telegraph, Ms Di Martino said she had never experienced a passenger like Ms Moore during a long career working for clients including Emma Thompson, the Hollywood actress, and Laura Bush, the former US first lady.
“She had been drinking all day – she drank and drank and drank,” she said.
“After the meal – at which much more wine was consumed – I came up from below to clear up. We had just set sail from Juan-les-Pins. She just came up to me and started pushing me around, shouting at me and being horribly abusive.
“In this business we are not trained in how to restrain people and I ended up having a hospital check up I was so covered in bruises. She basically beat me up. It was like dealing with a pit bull, she was very strong and solid.
“Chairs went over and once when she lunged at me she nearly went overboard and only I saved her from falling in,” she added.
By this point Mr McLaren had seen enough and called police at nearby Port Gallice. When the boat made it to shore, three officers were waiting. But Ms Moore’s companion told the officers he did not wish to press charges.
“She continued drinking even as the police were questioning her from the quayside,” Ms Di Martino said.
“In 25 years doing this job I have never encountered anyone like this.” The Telegraph put the allegations to Ms Moore, who now lives in Menton and has suffered poor health in recent years. Last week she gave an interview to The Sun calling the news of Sir Geoffrey’s knighthood “disgusting”.
She admitted that around that time she had chartered a yacht with Sir Nicholas, but said she had no memory of attacking him or Ms Di Martino.
Twice married, Sir Nicholas was a former minister whose political career ended in 1996 when he was photographed face down in a gutter at the Tory party conference after a party.
“I do remember the boat trip with Sir Nick. He was just a good friend” Ms Moore said. “Nick’s interest was in my business, which started off very well.”
A member of Sir Nicholas’s family told The Telegraph that they had “no recollection at all” of Ms Moore.
This newspaper has previously disclosed that Ms Moore once admitted to a friend she had slipped on a marble floor and hit her head, causing the injury she later claimed was caused by Sir Geoffrey.
His solicitor also claimed to have been contacted by a representative of Ms Moore who suggested that she would drop the allegation if Sir Geoffrey paid her around £150,000. Court papers also show that a barrister acting for Ms Moore demanded £1 million in return for her silence, while she also attempted to sell her story to Max Clifford, the publicist. At the time she was in grave financial trouble with debts of more than £1.3 million.
Sir Geoffrey was found guilty in January 1998, and the court upheld his conviction that October. Ms Moore was awarded one franc in damages. A further appeal was thrown out in 2000.
Last night a friend of Sir Geoffrey said they believed the new evidence about Ms Moore proved he had been “telling the truth”.
“[He] knows he can be rude ... but people should take a look at the facts … that’s all he asks,” the friend said. Ms Moore said she stood by her version of events.