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,”
Coetzee alleged, as with a previous witness, journalist Shaun
Gillham, that Slater had added unverified material to the article to “give
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
Slater said she had sent the article to Sheehan who
responded by saying she had done a “fantastic job”.
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
“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.
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
Gillham said this was kept in the article to “add
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.