Bob Hewitt takes the stand for the first time in the Palm Ridge High Court. The former tennis star is accused of rape and sexual assault involving at least 3 teenage girls. 120215. Picture: Chris Collingridge 973
Bob Hewitt takes the stand for the first time in the Palm Ridge High Court. The former tennis star is accused of rape and sexual assault involving at least 3 teenage girls. 120215. Picture: Chris Collingridge 973

Ex-Hewitt student testifies in his defence

By Naledi Shange Time of article published Feb 18, 2015

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Johannesburg - One of Bob Hewitt's former tennis students testified in his defence in the High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Palm Ridge, on Wednesday.

The woman, who may not be named, said the former Grand Slam champion coached her from 1980, when she was 13, along with Suellen Sheehan.

The Australian-born Hewitt, 75, is on trial for the rape of two of his former students, Theresa Tolken and Sheehan in the 1980s, and the sexual assault of a third, who may not be named, in the 1990s. He has pleaded not guilty. He gave tennis lessons to the girls.

The third woman claimed Hewitt rubbed himself against her as he coached her in the 1990s.

Terry Price, for Hewitt, contends she could have mistaken tennis balls in Hewitt's pockets for an erect penis.

On Wednesday, the former student testifying in his defence told the court she saw nothing unusual with her tennis coach keeping tennis balls in his pocket.

She said there was nothing unusual about him standing behind a student to demonstrate how they should move their shoulders or hips.

The woman said she heard rumours involving Tolken and Hewitt, but had personally never experienced anything untoward. Her mother was aware of the rumours but did not move her from Hewitt's squad.

She said she never worried about Hewitt as her mother was always around.

After a brief cross-examination, the witness was released from the stand.

Sheehan alleges Hewitt raped her in 1980 in his car before tennis practice, when she was 12.

Tolken has testified that Hewitt touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex on him 34 years ago, when she was 12. He was driving her to Sun City at the time.

She told the court Hewitt made her take off her panties and told her to lie on top of him in the bath in his hotel room at Sun City. She claimed he tried to put his penis inside her.

When Tolken told her mother what had happened a case was opened. It was however not pursued because it was not opened in the area where the alleged crime took place, and out of concern for how she would be treated in court.

Prosecutor Carina Coetzee on Wednesday brought an application to re-open the State's case and call another witness to testify.

It was hoped this witness, now living in America, could add value to Tolken's testimony. It was understood that the witness came forward after reading of the matter in the media.

Judge Bert Bam said he needed to be assured that this witness would bring new evidence to the case.

He adjourned proceedings for an hour to allow the State time to contact the witness.

Sapa

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