Credibility of alleged Hewitt victim under spotlight

2015-02-17 13:16
Bob Hewitt (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Bob Hewitt (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - The credibility of one of former Grand Slam tennis champion Bob Hewitt's alleged victims came under the spotlight on Tuesday as journalists testified about interviews she had granted them.

Prosecutor Carina Coetzee questioned the testimony of a journalist who testified in the rape and indecent assault trial.

The reporter, Charmaine Slater of the Bedforview and Edenvale News, had earlier testified that she wrote an article about Hewitt and one of his alleged victims Suellen Sheehan in 2011.

She said she relied exclusively on her notes to compile the article. The notes were handed in as evidence in the trial.


After going through the notes and the article, however, Coetzee said there were aspects and quotations that Slater had used in her article which did not appear in her notes.

"I very often write articles on memory and on notes," said Slater.

"The words were said. They were not in the notes," she said.

Coetzee alleged, as with a previous witness, journalist Shaun Gillham, that Slater had added unverified material to the article to "give it colour".

Earlier, Slater had testified that Sheehan claimed to have been raped by Hewitt in his car when she was 11.

Sheehan, however, testified the rape happened when she was 12.

Slater said she had sent the article to Sheehan who responded by saying she had done a "fantastic job".

2011 interview

Gillham, a reporter for the Weekend Post in Port Elizabeth, earlier testified that he interviewed Sheehan for an article which was published on 3 September 2011.

He told the court that Sheehan said Hewitt had sexually assaulted her but made no mention of rape.

The article stated that: "She was approached by Hewitt when she was 0 years old and that he had sexually assaulted her."

Gillham maintained that Sheehan had never said anything about rape.

"I stand by this article," said Gillham, adding that according to his understanding, Sheehan said Hewitt had began sexually assaulting her when she was 9.

"So these are her words?" asked Terry Price, for Hewitt, "Absolutely," responded Gillham.

He said it was always important for a journalist to ensure that sources were quoted verbatim but the notes he took during his telephonic interview with Sheehan were no longer available.

Gillham said Sheehan had never contested the article and several follow-up articles had also been written on the matter.

Alzheimer's disease

In his article, Gillham also stated that they had been informed that Hewitt suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

When he later spoke to Hewitt he never verified these claims.

Gillham said this was kept in the article to "add colour".

Sheehan is one of two women who have testified that Hewitt raped them in the 1980s.

A third witness claimed she was sexually assaulted by Hewitt in the 1990s.

Hewitt, now 75 years old, is on trial for two counts of rape and one of indecent assault.

Sheehan has told the court that she was misquoted in several newspaper articles, particularly on her age when Hewitt allegedly raped her.

Her mother, Judy Sheehan, took the stand to testify.

Read more on:    bob hewitt  |  johannesburg

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