Tennis star Bob Hewitt's rape trial continues

Bob Hewitt was indefinitely suspended from both the International Hall of Fame and the South Africa Sports and Arts Hall of Fame in 2012. (Lettie Ferreira, Gallo)

Bob Hewitt was indefinitely suspended from both the International Hall of Fame and the South Africa Sports and Arts Hall of Fame in 2012. (Lettie Ferreira, Gallo)

The trial of Australian-born former tennis star Bob Hewitt, accused of rape and indecent assault, is expected to continue in the Johannesburg high court on Tuesday.

On Monday, Hewitt showed no emotion in court while one of his accusers testified about how he sexually assaulted her.

Wearing a light brown suit and a yellow shirt, seventy-five-year old Hewitt sat in the dock supported by his wife, and listened to his lawyer Terry Price cross-examine Theresa Tolken, who has given her permission to be named.

Hewitt has pleaded not guilty to two charges of rape and one of indecent assault.

Tolken told the court, sitting in Palm Ridge, how Hewitt, who was her tennis coach, allegedly touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex on him 34 years ago, when she was 12. At the time, Tolken lived in Bedfordview in Johannesburg.

Price asked her: “Mr Hewitt would take you home most times after practice?” She agreed.

“And despite this ongoing sexual assault, you got into the car with him?” Tolken said she was brought up to respect adults and to do as she was told.

“He would get into your head. When I did tell my parents to pick me up, that was my outcry.” 

Price persisted: “[Is there] any reason you didn’t say you aren’t comfortable?” She said: “Then I would have had to elaborate on why I was not comfortable with him ... I was scared, I was 12, 13 years old. I was scared, I was told by Hewitt not to say anything.”

Tolken testified earlier that she eventually told her mother about Hewitt’s alleged abuse after she heard her sister and a friend talking about kissing boys. She said she had told the girls that she had been kissed by Hewitt, prompting her sister to tell their mother.

Price asked: “Then you didn’t hesitate to tell her?” She said: “The door had opened, the opportunity was there. I told my mother he made me take off my panties, told me to lie on top of him in the bath ... I told her he tried to put his penis in me.”

‘Love’ letters penned
The court heard that a case was opened the following day, but was not pursued for various reasons.

These included the fact that the case was not opened in the area where the rape – or attempted rape as it was defined in law at the time – allegedly happened, and concerns about how she would be treated in court.

Tolken testified about three letters Hewitt wrote to her at the time.

“He would put letters in my tennis racquet bag and tell me he has left something in my bag for me and I am to destroy it when I have read it.” 

In the letters attributed to Hewitt, he wrote of his “love” for the child.

One excerpt read: “I am so flat I can’t hold you, you are the only one who can lift me up.”

Another read: “I can only think you think of me as a sex maniac, I am not.”

Price asked Tolken: “He never actually said ‘I don’t want anyone to see those letters because they are sexual in nature?” She replied: “No”.

Tolken said: “I am flabbergasted ... What Hewitt did to me ... is embedded in my head for the rest of my life.

“I am here to see justice done, Bob Hewitt has to pay for what he has done. To say I am talking nonsense is ridiculous.”

Tolken and her mother have returned from their home in New Zealand to testify against Hewitt.

Judge Bert Bam adjourned the matter until 9.30am on Tuesday. – Sapa



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