Australian-born tennis champion Bob Hewitt told the High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Palm Ridge, on Thursday that his letters to a 12-year-old tennis student 30-years ago did not give a good impression.
In a letter to Theresa “Twiggy” Tolken, he wrote: “I am always available in body, heart, mind and soul.”
Under cross-examination, he said: “On face value, it doesn’t look good for me, but if you saw the letters she wrote to me…”
The 75-year-old told the court he no longer had the letters Tolken wrote to him, as he had handed them to the police when the case was first reported in the early 1980s, but that all his letters were a direct response to hers.
“What was the gist of the letters?” asked prosecutor Carina Coetzee.
“I have no idea. I can’t recall,” Hewitt replied. “I’m prepared to admit I should not have written those letters,” he said.
The tall, white-haired man has pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape and one of indecent assault involving Tolken and two other girls he coached.
In one of his letters to Tolken, Hewitt wrote: “I can’t, of course, hold you or kiss you, as this has to come from you.”
Hewitt testified that this referred to an innocent hug and a fatherly kiss.
“It was a kiss on the forehead, not on the lips,” he told the court.
He said Tolken was not forthcoming with affection and had not received fatherly love from her biological father. He had tried to give her fatherly love.
Hewitt said he wrote letters to Tolken to try and boost her confidence as she was a shy girl.
However, he said he took her off the tennis squad because of her “bad attitude”.
Tolken testified that her parents stopped taking her to practice at Hewitt’s after she told them he had touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex. She was 12 years old at the time.
She also accused Hewitt of making her take off her panties and telling her to lie on top of him in the bath. She claimed he tried to put his penis inside her.
Hewitt, meanwhile, said that, at the time, he had no idea why her parents stopped her from training with him.
It did not cross his mind that there might be animosity over his plans to leave her out of the squad he intended taking to Miami in the US later that year.
In another letter to her, Hewitt wrote: “I can only assume you think of me as a sex maniac.”
Cross-examined on it, Hewitt said that while they had not spoken about sex, he must have written this in direct response to her letter.
Read more: Hewitt regrets replying to love letters
Questioned about it earlier in his testimony, he scratched his head and said that he wrote this because Tolken had seen him flirt with women at Sun City.
“Twiggy had a bit of a fit about it,” he said.
Hewitt described women as showgirls who wore short shorts.
“I don’t know what she thought. I never discussed anything about sex with her.”
In another part of the letter, Hewitt wrote: “My heart is going faster… because in 40 minutes I’ll see you again.”
Hewitt said this was innocent. “I was building up her confidence. I was trying to build a more positive attitude,” he said. “If I went about it in the wrong way, I will apologise.”
Tolken closely followed the proceedings from a seat in the back of the court, at times shaking her head and exchanging looks with another of Hewitt’s alleged victims, Suellen Sheehan.
Sheehan has testified that Hewitt raped her in 1982 in his car before tennis practice. She was 12 years old.
A third alleged victim, who may not be named, testified that Hewitt rubbed himself against her back in an inappropriate manner during their private tennis lessons.
When proceedings began on Thursday, Hewitt’s lawyer Terry Price applied for the case to be struck from the roll, but this was denied by Judge Bert Bam.
Hewitt’s wife Delaille, who has been at his side since the trial started, spent Thursday waiting on a bench outside the courtroom.
Hewitt is expected to continue testifying when proceedings resume at 9.30am on Friday.