South Africa 12.2.2015 01:32 pm

Ex-tennis champ denies rape claims

Former tennis player Bob Hewitt. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Former tennis player Bob Hewitt. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Australian-born former tennis champion Bob Hewitt on Thursday denied the two rape and one sexual assault claims made against him by at least three women he coached in the 1980s and 1990s.

The 75-year-old told the court it had been a trying time for him, his daughter and his wife.

Hewitt said they had been victimised through phone calls and Facebook messages, and had been hounded by the media in supermarkets.

“If my family wasn’t strong, it would have been destroyed,” he said during his evidence-in-chief.

Hewitt told the court he had remained in contact with the parents of one of his alleged victims Suellen Sheehan.

“Sheehan’s mom has supported me that I did not do anything to her daughter. I had no opportunity to do so.

“I never fetched her from school. I did not even know where she went to school,” said Hewitt.

Sheehan told the court Hewitt raped her in his car under some trees after fetching her from school for tennis practice in 1982, when she was 12.

She said she had visited Hewitt’s house several times for private lessons.

Hewitt denied this.

“I was a little bit expensive. She couldn’t afford it,” Hewitt said, adding that Sheehan had not visited any of his houses.

Sheehan alleged that Hewitt raped her in the front seat of his blue, soft-top vehicle with leather seats.

However, Hewitt said that at the time of the alleged rape, he drove a Mazda.

He later bought a white vehicle which had a soft-top and leather seats.

Sheehan’s family had labelled her a pathological liar. She no longer communicated with them.

In her testimony on Tuesday, Sheehan said she was excited when she saw Hewitt around 12 years after the alleged rape.

“I did say I was excited to see him,” Sheehan said, referring to an article in which she was quoted.

“In my mind, I was excited to show him I’d done something with my life. I’d become a mom,” she told the court.

“I was proud of my son. He was a beautiful boy and I approached him [Hewitt] to say hello.” Her son was nine-months-old at the time.

The court heard that, according to the article, Hewitt shunned her.

“I felt rejected,” Sheehan told the court.

She said that, at the time, she had not yet accepted that Hewitt had raped her.

Hewitt told the court he had not intentionally shunned Sheehan.

“Even back then, I was a little deaf,” he testified. “I promise you, if she’d gotten my attention, I would have loved to see her son. She was very proud of him.”

He told the court he had since communicated with Sheehan’s son, and with whom she had a terrible relationship.

Earlier, Hewitt’s defence team failed to have the case struck from the roll.

Hewitt’s lawyer Terry Price submitted that, among other things, the evidence of the three women who accused Hewitt of sexual assault and rape could not be accepted.

“I’ve considered the relevant issues and listened to the arguments,” said Judge Bert Bam.

“None of it comes as a surprise. As far as the application is concerned, it is without merit and is refused,” he ruled, without giving reasons.

Wearing a blue knee-length dress, Hewitt’s wife Delaille stood and left the court room once the ruling had been delivered.

She has remained by her husband’s side as, one by one, his accusers have taken the stand.

At the back of the court room, Sheehan broke down and cried when the application was denied.

Another of Hewitt’s accusers Theresa Tolken had told the court Hewitt touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex on him 34 years ago when she was 12.

A third alleged victim, who may not be named, testified that Hewitt rubbed himself against her back in an inappropriate way during private tennis lessons.

 

The Citizen Trail Run 2018

today in print