JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Bob Hewitt, a former Grand Slam doubles tennis champion, was on Monday convicted in a South African court of rape and sexual assault decades after the alleged assaults.
Judge Bert Bam said he is 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, who is 75 years old, denied all three charges.
The judge said the striking similarities among the three womens’ testimonies showed that Hewitt’s conduct was calculated. Bam initially ordered that Australian-born Hewitt should be taken into custody, but said he was willing to consider bail until sentencing in April. A decision was expected later Monday.
Wearing a suit, Hewitt sat with arms crossed and appeared impassive as the judge explained the reasoning behind his verdict for nearly two hours. His wife, Delaille, sat on a chair close to the accused’s bench.
“I still don’t think he thinks he did anything wrong,” said 45-year-old Suellen Sheehan, one of Hewitt’s accusers.
Sheehan, who was in court for the verdict, laid a charge of rape against Hewitt in 2011 for a crime she says he committed in 1980. She said her former coach raped her in his car before tennis practice when she was 12 years old.
A South African group called Women and Men Against Children’s 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 alleged rapes that took place in the 1980s, and for a sexual assault that allegedly happened in the 1990s.
Bam said the accounts of the three women who accused Hewitt were consistent and revealed a pattern of behavior by Hewitt.
“There is such a striking similarity between the evidence against the accused and his modus operandi,” said Bam.
All three were gullible young girls, flattered by the attention of a renowned player, according to the judge.
“Their submissiveness in the circumstances should never have been seen as consent,” said Bam.
The 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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