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Former tennis star Bob Hewitt, 73, accused of rape and indecent assault dating to his days as a tennis coach in the 1980s, cited mental illness when he failed to appear in the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
It was to have been Hewitt’s first appearance, but the matter was postponed to October 4 after his doctor, Riaan Barnard, said he suffered from a major depressive mood disorder, exacerbated by anxiety attacks.
A medical certificate indicated the elderly former sportsman’s health had worsened over the past two to three years.
Barnard said his patient had also undergone several surgical procedures. He had a heart attack early last year following a stroke in 2010.
Barnard, who says he has been Hewitt’s doctor for nine years, said he also suffers from chronic fatigue, anhedonia (inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable), slurred speech and apraxia.
Hewitt’s attorney, Alwyn Griebenow, submitted on behalf of his client that the matter be moved to the Eastern Cape to allow his client to be closer to the courts.
Hewitt is accused of raping Suellen Sheehan, 44, who was 16 at the time at the Boksburg tennis club in 1982. In 1983 he is alleged to have raped a 16-year-old girl at Sun City.
Other charges include indecent assault. Hewitt is accused of pushing himself against Amanda Weinhold and rubbing himself against her in 1994.
Prosecutor Hank Strydom told the court yesterday he was only informed about Hewitt’s absence from court in the morning.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had however been told earlier in the week.
Meanwhile, outside the court yesterday members of Women and Men Against Child Abuse and the Northfield Methodist Church held banners bearing messages such as “Life sentence for child rapist”.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Phindi Louw said they were confident that the next court date would yield positive results. - Saturday Argus