Bob Hewitt in the dock in the South Gauteng High Court during his rape and sexual assault trial in 2015. File photo: Chris Collingridge.

DURBAN - There is a massive question mark as to whether convicted rapist and former SA tennis legend Bob Hewitt, 79, will walk out of prison on September 23 despite one of his victims not being consulted before the decision to release him was made. 

In 2016 Hewitt was convicted for raping two teens and sexually assaulting a third while he was their coach in the 1980s and 90s. 

He was due to serve a six year sentence, but on Thursday Tania Koen, lawyer for one of Hewitt’s victims, said she was made aware that a parole board hearing had been held on August 23 when a decision was made that Hewitt would be released on September 23, having served three years.

Koen said Olivia Jasriel (who changed her name after the trial from Sue-Ellen Sheehan) had not been advised that a parole board hearing was going to be held. According to the Correctional Services Act, a victim is entitled to make representation to the parole board and should be notified as to when and where such a hearing is taking place. 

Koen said, “We were aware he was eligible for parole and in the interests of protecting my client, I had been making enquiries but had no response. On Thursday I was absolutely shocked when I spoke to someone at Correctional Services who told me the parole hearing had taken place and Hewitt would be released on September 23. It’s inconceivable. They failed to inform the victims, who have a right to make representation to the parole board and secondly they must advise victims when parole is granted.”

She confirmed she has written a letter to the chairman of the parole board questioning the matter. The letter was hand delivered to North End Prison, where Hewitt is incarcerated, on Friday. Letters have also been sent to the Deputy Minister for Correctional Services and a member on the portfolio committee of Justice and Correctional Services. 

A distressed Jasriel said, “Throughout this ten year process, his rights and his entitlement have always been taken into account. Again I have been given no voice. How does three years match my life sentence?”

Women and Men Against Child Abuse Director, Miranda Jordan said that Jasriel had been raped by Hewitt when she was 12 years old. 

”Against the backdrop of the current nationwide outcry about gender based violence, we find ourselves again confronted with the harsh reality that victims and survivors suffer not only the trauma of being raped or sexually abused, but are repeatedly traumatised by the government’s inability to handle such cases with even the most basic understanding, respect and dignity.”

Born in Dubbo, Australia, Hewitt moved to SA in his early twenties. He won nine Grand Slam titles and six mixed doubles titles and won the Davis Cup in 1974. 

He was expelled from the International Tennis Hall of Fame in April 2016.

Independent on Saturday