Rape victim ‘excited’ to see Hewitt

Former tennis player Bob Hewitt. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Former tennis player Bob Hewitt. Picture: Refilwe Modise

A woman allegedly raped by her former tennis coach Bob Hewitt, was excited when she saw him around 12 years after the alleged crime, the High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Palm Ridge, heard on Tuesday.

“You were excited to see him? Your rapist?” Terry Price, for Hewitt, asked his alleged victim, Suellen Sheehan, during cross-examination.

He was referring to a ‘You’ magazine article where she was quoted as having said this.

The Australian-born Hewitt (75) is facing two charges of rape and one of indecent assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

“I did say I was excited to see him. In my mind, I was excited to show him I’d done something with my life. I’d become a mom.”

“I was proud of my son. He was a beautiful boy and I approached him (Hewitt) to say hello,” said Sheehan.

Her son was nine months old at the time.

According to the article, Hewitt shunned her.

“I felt rejected,” Sheehan told the court.

“So until 24, you didn’t know you’d been raped?” Price asked her.

“I hadn’t accepted it,” the tall, dark-haired woman told the court.

“I laid charges in 2011… In 1994, I did not accept what had happened to me.”

Price told her that Hewitt denied ever doing anything sexual with her.

“And so he would,” Sheehan responded.

She claimed she knew as many as nine girls by name who could testify that similar incidents had occurred between them and Hewitt.

Price referred to several newspapers, magazines and broadcast interviews where Sheehan had spoken of the alleged rape.

In one interview, she was quoted as saying she “loved and trusted Hewitt” and never told anyone because “it was their secret”.

Sheehan said she had been misquoted in several articles. According to some of these she claimed she had first had an encounter with Hewitt when she was nine. She however told the court Hewitt raped her at 12.

According to one article, Hewitt first raped Sheehan in the back of his car, while she insisted it was in the front seat.

“Is there a reason why you don’t use the word rape?” Price asked her.

“It was my personal preference to not use the word. It doesn’t put me in a happy place,” Sheehan replied.

For years, she had struggled with intimacy and relationships and suffered from depression and anxiety.

Sheehan told the court her mother rejected her claims.

“I started telling her about it and she dismissed it with ‘rubbish’,” she said.

She and her parents no longer communicated. Her mother and brother had called her a pathological liar.

“My parents support abuse… They accepted that he abused me.”

Sheehan was the second witness to testify in the case. On Monday, Theresa Tolken told the court how Hewitt sexually assaulted her.

Delivering her evidence-in-chief earlier on Tuesday, Sheehan said Hewitt assaulted her under some trees before tennis practice in Boksburg one day in 1982, when she was 12.

To questions from her lawyer Carina Coetzee, she testified that Hewitt lowered the seat of his car and told her to lower her underwear.

“I’m not sure whether this was an instruction,” she said.

“He put his penis inside me. I remember exquisite pain,” Sheehan said.

“I don’t remember how long it lasted, whether it lasted 20 seconds or 20 minutes.”

Hewitt then told her to go and clean herself up.

“I remember a horrible odour,” she said, adding that in her adult life, she learnt the wet, sticky substance was semen.

“I didn’t object. I was told this was something I was to do and I did it,” she said, adding that she respected Hewitt.

“I needed to listen to him in order to grow up and mature. I didn’t actively say this is what I didn’t want. I didn’t put up any resistance. I accepted it,” she said.

She had told the court the rape took place in Hewitt’s car which had black leather seats and a soft top. Hewitt had said his car had blue seats and a hard top.

Price questioned Sheehan on why Hewitt would rape her in an open place, where anyone could have seen them.

“I needed him to get it over and done with. I wasn’t in a position to stop him,” Sheehan replied.

She told the court that on another occasion, Hewitt showed her how to have oral sex and she did this with him.

According to Sheehan, she and Hewitt first met in 1978. Price however, said Hewitt’s family only moved to South Africa in 1980.

Sheehan told the court she had been to Hewitt’s house several times for private lessons.

“Mr and Mrs Hewitt and your parents deny you’ve ever been at the Hewitts,” Price said.

He questioned why she failed to recall that the Hewitt’s tennis court was an unusual oval shape.

Sheehan said the tennis court had similar lines to that of a regular court, which is all she remembered.

The white-haired Hewitt sat in the dock alongside his wife Delaille, looking at Sheehan as she testified. Occasionally, Delaille Hewitt looked down and appeared to be writing something.

Price asked her whether the alleged rape was the first inappropriate encounter she had had with Hewitt.

Sheehan said on some occasions, Hewitt would stand behind her so she could feel his erection against her back.

“He’d previously tried to look down my panties to see if I’d grown any pubic hair,” she said angrily.

A third alleged victim of Hewitt was still expected to testify.

Judge Bert Bam postponed the case to Wednesday.


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