TENNIS legend Bob Hewitt's lawyers have launched a scathing attack on the characters of the women who waited more than 30 years to publicly accuse him of molestation.
In documents submitted to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in the United States last week, Port Elizabeth advocate Terry Price argued that the women were on a mission to destroy the tennis champion's good name.
After three decades of silence, six women, all coached by Hewitt in the 1980s, came forward in the media to accuse him of rape or sexual assault. They then relayed their stories to the International Hall of Fame with the hope of having him kicked out.
Price said this "stank of a conspiracy”.
Hewitt, who is now retired and lives with his wife in Addo, has denied any sexual misconduct. He did admit, however, to having consensual sex with one of the complainants, who he claims was over the age of 18 at the time.
Price and lawyer Lunen Meyer flew to the US last week to represent the former doubles tennis champion at an inquiry called by the Hall of Fame.
Board members must now decide whether or not to expel Hewitt. A verdict is expected soon.
The 72-year-old became the first South African to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
Assessing the version of the most outspoken of the alleged victims, Suellen Sheehan, Price said her sketchy background indicated she was unstable. The 43-year-old Gauteng mother had told investigators that Hewitt was her tennis coach when he raped her when she was between nine and 12 years old.
"She alleges that she told her parents when she was 13 years old. Both her parents emphatically deny that,” Price argued.
He said her parents went as far as obtaining an interdict against her around the same time that she allegedly accused another family member of raping her.
Price also alleged that Sheehan was under investigation for reporting close to 30 false charges to the police as an adult, had been fired from numerous jobs, and stabbed her sister-in-law with a pen in a hair salon.
"She has given four different ages to the press as to when Bob allegedly started molesting her,” Price said, adding that Hewitt had only met her in 1981 when she was 12.
Looking at the evidence of another complainant, Twiggy Tolken, Price conceded she had first made the allegations of attempted rape when she was 13. However, Price said the attorney-general had declined to prosecute and the charges could not legally be reinstated.
He said Tolken had attended an all-girls school and therefore her version that Hewitt had molested her on her school's rugby field raised suspicions.
While victims of sex crimes are generally not identified, these two came out in public with their allegations and agreed to be named.
Referring to yet another complainant, Price said Hewitt had never even met her. "She is just one of many who climbed on the bandwagon.
"It must be pointed out that what these girls allege has not only never been tested in a court of law, it emerged 30 years after the alleged incidents. Failure to provide specific dates, times and places makes it difficult for Bob to raise any defence save for a denial.”
Price said there was also no medical evidence to corroborate their stories. "We believe Bob has already been convicted and hanged and that whatever he says is of no evidential value. Clearly an onus rests on Bob which is incorrect in law.”
He said the complainants regularly conversed on social networking sites, and Sheehan even initiated a petition to have Hewitt's name removed from the Hall of Fame.
Meanwhile, according to documents, Hewitt's former doubles partner, Frew McMillan, and his mixed doubles partner, Greer Leo-Smith, have voiced their support for him.
A decision has not yet been made on whether or not to criminally prosecute Hewitt.