Hewitt clarifies ‘love letters’
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Johannesburg - Former tennis coach Bob Hewitt told the High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Palm Ridge, on Friday that he would have been upset if an older man had written letters to his minor daughter.
After going through the letters he wrote to one of his students, Theresa “Twiggy” Tolken, prosecutor Carin Coetzee asked Hewitt how he would have reacted had he found such letters addressed to his daughter.
“I would be very upset and would demand an explanation from my daughter... to try to ascertain what it's all about,” he responded.
In one of his letters to then 12-year-old Tolken in the 1980s, Hewitt wrote: “Whatever happens between us, you have to initiate.” Asked what he meant by that, Hewitt, now 75, said he had no idea.
In another part of the letter, he wrote: “My love, feelings and desires remained the same.”
Asked what he meant by desires, Hewitt said: “Desires referred to tennis.”
Coetzee asked him why he instructed Tolken to destroy the letters after reading them.
“The reason why was that I didn't want her father to find the letters and think I was pressuring Twiggy into changing schools,” he said.
He told the court that, at the time, he had been in talks with Tolken's father to move her from a private school to a public school.
This was because tennis tournaments were usually held during public school holidays.
Hewitt has pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape and one of indecent assault involving Tolken and two other girls he coached in the 1980s and 1990s.
Tolken has testified that Hewitt touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex on him 34 years ago, when she was 12.
She told the court he made her take off her panties and told her to lie on top of him in the bath. She claimed he tried to put his penis inside her.
Tolken told her mother what had happened. A case was opened, but it was not pursued because it was not opened in the area where the alleged incident took place and out of concern for how she would be treated in court.
Hewitt denied ever touching Tolken.
“If I had sex with her... if I raped her or attempted to rape her, she would have been taken to hospital, that I assure you,” Hewitt told the court.
Another of Hewitt's students, Suellen Sheehan, testified that he raped her in 1982 in his car before tennis practice. She was 12 years old.
A third woman, who may not be named, testified that Hewitt rubbed himself against her back in an inappropriate way during their private tennis lessons.
She said: “At a private lesson, he was quite jovial... we were discussing tactics, and he said to me 'rape is enjoyable in all cases and if I rape you, you need to lie down and enjoy it'.”
Hewitt has admitted to making the comment, but claimed it was a joke, referring to tennis.
He testified that he simply meant that, as a player, if you made a mistake, you should relax and continue to enjoy the match.
He said he had made the comment to the boys he coached and not to the woman now accusing him of sexual assault. He had always given her private lessons.
Asked how the women would have known about the comments, Hewitt said: “Players talk. She may have heard some players talk.” He said she had attended some tournaments.
Hewitt described his comment as “a joke”.
“So rape was a joke after you had charges of rape laid against you a few years earlier,” Coetzee put it to him, in reference to the case opened by Tolken when she was teenager.
“The statement was a joke, not rape,” Hewitt responded angrily. “If you don't understand what I've said rather leave it. Don't show your lack of knowledge on tennis,” he said.
Wrapping up her case, Coetzee put it to Hewitt that he had sexual intercourse with Suellen Sheehan in 1982 on a Tuesday afternoon at the ERPM tennis club in Boksburg.
“Firstly, I did not have sex with her. Secondly, I never tried to have sex with her. Thirdly, I never had sex with her at the ERPM on a Tuesday,” said Hewitt, adding that he coached another squad on Tuesday and not Sheehan.
Coetzee put it to Hewitt that he raped Tolken in his hotel room in 1980 at Sun City.
“I did not,” he replied.
Coetzee said he touched the breasts of the third accused when he coached her in the 1990s.
“You intentionally rubbed your erect penis against her and touched her breasts,” said Coetzee.
“Her mother must have been delighted,” said Hewitt. “She was there. She saw everything.”
The Australian-born former tennis champion's wife Delaille has taken the stand.