On the eve of the first anniversary of the death of Isidingo star Ashley Callie, the man who was accused of causing her death in a car crash has been freed.
Charges of culpable homicide against Nico Pretorius, 22, were withdrawn in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday after the state could no longer prove its case.
Pretorius was behind the wheel of the Renault that collided head-on with Callie’s car at the corner of Tana and Linden roads in Emmarentia, Joburg, on February 8 last year.
The actress died from severe head injuries a week later.
The case was originally heard in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court, but on January 14 the case was transferred to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court because it was in the wrong jurisdiction.
The Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday withdraw the charges because, according to the charge sheet, the case cannot be put back on the roll without permission from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
For Pretorius, meanwhile, the year-long nightmare has finally come to an end.
“It’s a huge relief. It is a major, major relief. At last it’s over,” a smiling Pretorius said from his mom’s Florida home on Friday.
Speaking to the Saturday Star, Pretorius explained how his whole life had changed in the past year.
“It was a rollercoaster. I wanted life to go on but there were always limitations on me. I often thought it would never end. It was constantly on my mind, every single day.”
“Do you know how nice it is to laugh again?” asked his overjoyed mother Dorothy.
“We are completely different people. We feel like cutting the grass and cleaning the house. We can laugh for a change.
“We went through therapy, hardships, pain and anger. One month after the accident happened, his father died. This has been hell.”
Pretorius admits he went into a year-long cocoon and shut everyone out.
“I cut out a lot of things, like being in public. I wasn’t looking for people’s sympathy. Because of the emotional stress I was going through, I was not the person I used to be. I thought it was a burden that I had to carry on my own.”
Although Pretorius has not had any contact with the Callie family since the accident and still believes their daughter was driving on the wrong side of the road, he said he holds no bad feelings towards them.
“If I was in their shoes, I would probably do the same thing.”
He added that he thought the withdrawal of the case may be a relief to them as the court case was a huge waste of time.
But now that it is over, he wants to put the events of the past year behind him.
“There was a lot of heartbreak and a lot of time wasted.
“It could have been avoided if everything was done right from the start. It dragged out way too long, but now it’s finally over.
“I am not going to sue the prosecutor; he was just doing his job. There are no hard feelings.
“I am happy that everything is over. It was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was put in my path for some reason. It happens. All I want to do is put it behind me and move on.”
Recalling the lengthy court case, Pretorius said there were things that worried him.
Most disturbing, he said, was the Internet commentary splashed from the day the accident happened.
“Blogs are the biggest way to carry forward a story in the worst way. Bloggers perceive situations in a way that is blatantly one-sided. People see the story from their side only.
“It comes down to people being misinformed. She [Callie] became the victim because she was the celebrity. I wouldn’t say I was the victim here; we were both to blame.
“What people don’t realise is what you go through.
“It’s easy for them to say that you don’t have any remorse, but they don’t know what you going through. We were always remorseful.”
Thoughts of the night of the accident often plagued him, he said.
“I often went through this thinking Why did I choose this road? I didn’t often take Tana Road but that night I did, I think of how close we came to death. How close to that ditch we were. It is amazing how we got out.”
But for the Callie family, it’s not over.
Callie’s sister Lauren Callie told the Saturday Star on Friday that they had made representations to the prosecuting authority, which are currently under consideration.
“It comes at a bad time. We were very disappointed to hear the charges had been dropped, especially since he had four appearances in the Randburg Magistrate’s Court.
“We were under the impression it was just a change of court and were not expecting a big decision like this.”
She said the prosecutors at the Randburg court had told the family they had a strong case.
“The timing is not great. Sunday is the one-year anniversary of her death. But what do we do? A court case case will never bring my sister back. Conviction is not consolation, but we are trying to encourage people to take responsibility.
“Our priority is to clear my sister’s name, as there were many reports that she was guilty and also to show that there are consequences to negligent driving.”
Lauren added that according to witness statements, her sister was not in the wrong.
Meanwhile, speaking about his five friends in the car with him that night, Pretorius said he was disappointed with them because they never stood by him.
And, he said, the biggest lesson he had learnt from his ordeal was: “Don’t judge anyone before you know the whole story.”
For now, however, Pretorius wants to focus on building his career in photography.
“Everything is over. We have a lot of things to pick up.”
- Saturday Star