AFRICANGLOBE – Bob Hewitt, a former Grand Slam doubles champion, has been convicted in a South African court of rape and sexual assault decades after the incidents.
Judge Bert Bam said he was satisfied that the two women who had accused the retired tennis player of rape and a third woman, who had accused him of sexual assault, were telling the truth. The charges stemmed from events in the 1980s and 1990s, when Hewitt coached the women as young girls. Hewitt, 75, denied all three charges.
The judge said the striking similarities among the three women’s testimonies showed that Hewitt’s conduct was calculated. Bam initially ordered that Australian-born Hewitt be taken into custody, but said he was willing to consider bail until sentencing in April. A decision was expected later on Monday.
Hewitt sat with arms crossed and appeared impassive as the judge explained the reasoning behind his verdict for nearly two hours. Hewitt’s wife, Delaille, sat on a chair close to the accused’s bench.
Suellen Sheehan, 45, one of Hewitt’s accusers, was in court for the verdict. “I still don’t think he thinks he did anything wrong,” she said.
Sheehan laid a charge of rape against Hewitt in 2011 for a crime she said he committed in 1980. Her former coach had raped her in his car before tennis practice when she was 12 years old, she said.
A South African group called Women and Men Against Child Abuse helped two other accusers come forward and petitioned South African prosecutors until Hewitt was brought to trial this year.
Hewitt was convicted of two rapes in the 1980s, and for a sexual assault in the 1990s.
Bam said the accounts of Hewitt’s accusers were consistent and revealed a pattern of behaviour by Hewitt.
“There is such a striking similarity between the evidence against the accused and his modus operandi,” Bam said. All three were gullible young girls, flattered by the attention of a renowned player.
“Their submissiveness in the circumstances should never have been seen as consent,” Bam said.
Letters that Hewitt wrote to one of his accusers, Theresa Tolken, were cited in detail as corroborating evidence. The judge said Hewitt had failed to convince him that the letters were only about tennis, as Hewitt said.
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