By Shaun Gillham
WHILE alleged sex abuse victims of former international tennis great Bob Hewitt eagerly await a prosecution decision from South African authorities, the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s investigation moved closer to completion this week after drawing Weekend Post into its vast inquiry.
Attorneys from Boston, Massachusetts-based Allen Snyder LLP, which was contracted by the Hall of Fame to investigate Hewitt to ascertain whether he will continue to be an inductee, questioned Weekend Post around its extensive investigations into the decades-old saga on July 18.
The organisation’s initial refusal to investigate the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Hewitt sparked an official complaint which was laid in Boksburg, Gauteng, by alleged victim Suellen Sheehan.
Sheehan, who along with other alleged victims has maintained a concerted campaign to have Hewitt brought to trial, said she had never been interviewed by South African authorities who were researching the case.
Sheehan is also part of the Hall of Fame inquiry.
According to Michael Connolly, a partner in the American legal firm who interviewed Weekend Post, the firm hoped to complete its investigation of the Addo man by the end of the month. Connolly, who intimated that his firm had experienced difficulties in securing assistance and cooperation from South African authorities, said his primary duty was to present the findings to the Hall of Fame, which would then come to a decision as to Hewitt’s status.
The international probe also comes as the South African Sports and Arts Hall of Fame (Sasahof) continues to officially recognise Hewitt’s status as an inductee.
While a source close to Sasahof revealed this week that the organisation may reconsider its recognition of Hewitt, a letter sent to another of the alleged victims, Twiggy Tolken, by Sasahof head David King late last year indicated that it would take no action until Hewitt was formally charged and a verdict was delivered.
“The SA Hall of Fame sets out to honour extraordinary achievements by extraordinary South Africans,” the letter says.
“There are very strict criteria to be inducted and clear criteria to be removed, the major one being bringing your sport into disrepute.
“However, owing to a myriad of politics, sensational journalism, etc we take the approach that we cannot be judge and jury. This just puts us in a situation (not yours specifically but generally) where we will be involved in controversy all the time.”
Sasahof spokesman Ryan McGee, who has since taken over King’s position, said while the organisation was closely watching developments from the prosecution process, Sasahof would be making a formal statement on the issue next week.
This is a version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday July 21 2012.