Three lawsuits that seek to portray former Vancouver Olympic CEO John Furlong as a repeat sexual abuser appear to be unravelling in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
One of the three suits has been dismissed. And the two remaining cases are now in doubt with the withdrawal of Jason Gratl, the Vancouver lawyer who was acting for all three accusers.
Beverly Mary Abraham, Grace Jessie West and a man who has asked not to be named, filed sexual abuse claims against Mr. Furlong last year, alleging he assaulted them while they were students of his at a Burns Lake elementary school in 1969-70.
The cases were scheduled to be tried jointly in March, but a motion to dismiss the two remaining cases is expected to be made by Mr. Furlong at a hearing in January.
Mr. Gratl declined comment Tuesday, but in an interview Ms. Abraham confirmed she asked the court to dismiss her claim last Friday, after Mr. Gratl told her he was no longer going to represent her.
"He told me that there was one of his clients that did something wrong and he was charged with it, so he had to walk away," said Ms. Abraham. "He kind of dropped all three of us together all at once. He didn't want to drop me but he said that with one, he cannot go to court."
Applications filed by Mr. Furlong state that the man who made the sexual abuse claims against him has past convictions for fraud and is currently facing new fraud charges. One document also states the man in the past filed an Indian Residential School settlement claim in which he swore he attended a different school from the one he now says he was at when Mr. Furlong allegedly assaulted him.
Ms. Abraham said she had long been thinking of dropping her claim because of personal stress and Mr. Gratl's withdrawal helped her decide.
"So it was OK for me [that Mr. Gratl backed away] because it made my decision easier," she said.
Ms. Abraham, the most outspoken of the three accusers, said her brother and a nephew died in recent months and her elderly mother was ill, all of which left her too emotionally spent to continue.
"Everything was weighing down on me. I needed to get on with my life. I didn't need to go and just keep fighting," she said, maintaining her claims against Mr. Furlong are true despite her decision to quit the case.
Dialling into a hearing last Friday, she told court she would withdraw her claim if Mr. Furlong apologized for allegedly abusing her 45 years ago.
Mr. Furlong's lawyer refused, however, and Ms. Abraham then withdrew her claim without qualification.
"I feel great," she said of her decision. "Now I can move on."
Ms. Abraham, Ms. West and the man, who has asked not to be named, filed claims against Mr. Furlong last year at a time when Mr. Furlong was engaged in a very public battle with freelance journalist Laura Robinson, who in a Georgia Straight article had claimed that as a young teacher Mr. Furlong verbally and physically abused First Nations students at Immaculata Elementary School, in Burns Lake, B.C.
Mr. Furlong is pursuing a defamation suit against Ms. Robinson.
Mr. Furlong's lawyer, Claire Hunter, made a brief statement by e-mail Tuesday.
"Mr. Furlong has always maintained that Ms. Abraham's claim, as well as the claim of assault by the other two plaintiffs, are false," she stated. "The dismissal follows the RCMP's conclusion following an investigation that, 'Based on the facts uncovered, the allegations made by Beverly Abraham are not supported.' Mr. Furlong will not comment with respect to the two outstanding claims as they remain before the courts."
Neither Ms. West nor the man whose name has been withheld could be located for comment.