Top lawyers begin probe into Bishops teacher-pupil sex scandal

The elite Bishops school in Rondebosch where it's alleged a female teacher had a sexual relationship with a 18-year-old learner. Photo: Twitter

The elite Bishops school in Rondebosch where it's alleged a female teacher had a sexual relationship with a 18-year-old learner. Photo: Twitter

Published Oct 19, 2019


Cape Town - House master Dave Mallett, the heartbroken father of the history teacher and water polo coach at the centre of the sex scandal that rocked Bishops Diocesan College in Rondebosch last week, has expressed sympathy for the married woman’s alleged victims and said he did not condone her behaviour.

This emerged during a meeting of Founders House on Friday, addressed by headmaster Guy Pearson, who clarified a letter sent to parents earlier this week by Mallett.

The meeting came on the same day that the school’s internal inquiry into Fiona Viotti’s alleged misconduct began. The investigation, headed by attorney Graeme Dorrington and one of Cape Town’s most senior advocates, Francois van Zyl, began with an interview with Pearson and will be followed by interviews with alleged victims, staff and others who knew Viotti well.

Mallett’s letter, which had failed to acknowledge the alleged victims of Viotti, 32, sparked media and public criticism. So far Bishops has established that four boys may have had a sexual relationship with Viotti, said a source close to the inquiry who requested anonymity.

“The first victim was a pupil in 2015 and all the boys were between 17 and 18 years old,” said the source.

“Exhaustive interviews have revealed that their may be three more victims and the school is still reaching out to boys in the seven-year period that Fiona taught. But the stories in the media that there are over 40 is absolute rubbish.”

The inquiry is a highly sensitive one and strict measures are being taken to ensure that alleged victims’ identities are kept confidential, said the source.

“The victims are terrified that they will be named in the media. Each one of them is shamed and embarrassed and emotionally traumatised. This social media trend that their sexual relationship with Viotti is a notch on their belts is absolute nonsense.”

Mallett’s letter, sent to the parents of the 70 Founders House boys under his care, read: “Thanks very much for the messages of support we have received in the wake of the devastating events involving my daughter, Fi, and our family as a whole.

“Tough times ahead, no doubt - but I’ll be soldiering on, supporting my family as best I can and sticking to my post in Founders House, too.

“I’ve just met with the lads to say that, as far as is possible, I need them to keep their heads down (don’t tiptoe around me!) and try to adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach. I can’t let this derail their final term

“Obviously Fiona’s health and safety is our priority right now and we will be doing all we can to help her pull through this.”

Mallett’s letter was a “sin of omission not commission”, said a source close to the history teacher and first team rugby coach who would not be named. 

“He is the first to recognise that he should have in retrospect put a sentence in there along the lines of, ‘I under no circumstances condone the behaviour of my daughter and I have huge sympathy for the victims and their families, but as her father I need to support my daughter.’”

Mallett called the meeting to clear up any confusion and asked Pearson to address the boys in his presence, said the source.

Pearson refused to be drawn on Mallett’s letter or Friday's meeting called to address it.

“This matter is under investigation by duly appointed attorneys and senior counsel,” he said. 

“Given the sensitivities of the matter, we do not wish to respond until the investigation is complete and we have received their report. Please understand that we are not being unco-operative, but we make this decision in fairness to all parties involved.”

Weekend Argus

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