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‘You stupid b***h, you are starting this whole thing up again. We are watching you, we know where you are staying, we know where you are.”
This was the frightening voicemail left on Suellen Sheehan’s cellphone – the woman who laid a rape charge against SA tennis legend Bob Hewitt.
Allegations of sexual assault and harassment from a string of Hewitt’s former young tennis players first surfaced last year following the breaking story in the Boston Globe which detailed Heather Conner Crowe speaking out in the US about alleged abuse she suffered while she was underage and coached by Hewitt.
She claimed she had just turned 15 when Hewitt lured her on to a tennis court at at Masconomet Regional High School and had sex with her.
It opened a can of worms, with women from different parts of the world coming forward with similar allegations.
While the statute of limitations has run out in the US, that did not apply in SA and a former player of Hewitt’s, Sheehan, opened a case in late December. Tthe National Prosecuting Authority is investigating complaints from a number of women.
But a wall of silence descended over the scandalous allegations in the tennis world, including any response from the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where Hewitt was inducted in 1992 along with his partner Frew Macmillan.
They are the only two South Africans to have received that honour. Others include greats such as Andre Agassi, John McEnroe and Billy-Jean King.
The women appealed to The Tennis Hall of Fame to investigate the matter, with no action having been taken so far.
The Boston Globe followed up the story last week with comment from Sheehan, after which she received the threatening phone call.
Sheehan said that opening a case against Hewitt had been traumatic and that after receiving the intimidating call, she now fears for her son’s safety.
She said she has had to change all her contact details.
The Saturday Star has a copy of the phone recording, which is a woman’s voice, and the number has been traced to Addo in the Cape.
Hewitt, now 70, lives in Addo in the Eastern Cape with his wife Delaille.
Many of the women who have spoken out claim Hewitt led a secret life over two decades and described him as a manipulative predator who enjoyed his power over his young charges and had no qualms about intimidating them or cornering them alone.
One of the women, Twiggy Tolken, 43, kept letters Hewitt allegedly wrote to her when she was only 12 years old,
A controversial and supremely confident figure on the court, Hewitt became a television commentator once his tennis years were over and eventually retired to the idyllic fruit valleys of the Cape.
Despite repeated attempts by the media to get comment since the story broke, Hewitt has not responded to the allegations.
But there have been a number of comments made on the blog of a local newspaper regarding the story, including the comment “He (Hewitt) will not be charged, he will not be in court.”