Tennis legend Bob Hewitt.
Tennis legend Bob Hewitt.

JHB tennis mom to sue Bob Hewitt

By Kashiefa Ajam Time of article published Sep 24, 2011

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The Johannesburg mother of another of Bob Hewitt's alleged victims wants to sue the former tennis star for molesting her daughter more than 20 years ago - even though he is over 70 and in bad health.

The woman, whose name is known to The Independent on Saturday, said she had been one of 20 mothers living in the Bedfordview, Kempton Park, Edenvale and nearby areas who

confronted Hewitt when they discovered behavioural changes in their daughters, who were all 12 at the time.

He had been their tennis coach at the time.

“He had a massive property in Bedfordview then and he used to coach our children. But I started noticing a change in my daughter, and that was when she told me what was going on with Hewitt. It was 20 of us parents eventually who got together because we were all experiencing the same thing. It was then that we discovered what he was doing to our girls.

“Before we confronted him, some of us went to the coaching sessions and you could actually see him do it. You could see him fondle their breasts while he stood behind them and taught them how to hold their racquet properly.”

Earlier this month, it was reported that a six-month investigation by the Boston Globe had fingered Hewitt, 71, for molesting at least nine young girls - some as young as 10 at the time - in America and South Africa, after one of his American victims blew the whistle on him, blaming the decades-old sexual assault for her resignation from the school board she served on.

The initial report encouraged a spate of other victims to break their silence.

Two of his alleged South African victims spoke to The Independent on Saturday. Suellen Sheehan, 42, from Joburg, said the abuse started when she was about 10 years old. Gina Read, 42, also from Joburg, said Hewitt had always tried to touch and kiss her.

“No physical stuff happened between us, but once he threatened to rape me. He told me I was a late developer and needed to have sex with him.

“He always pushed up against us on the court, and to this day I have an aversion to anyone pushing up against me. I avoided him like the plague. I'm surprised he got away with what he did,” said Read.

American Heather Conner (nee Crowe) claimed she was coerced into having sex with him for the first time near the tennis courts at Masconomet Regional High School in Topsfield, Massachusetts, when she turned 15.

Last week alleged victim Twiggy Tolken, 43, came forward with letters which Hewitt allegedly wrote to her when she was just 12 years old. Tolken has since appealed to international tennis stars Martina Navratilova and Andre Agassi to step in and help her have Hewitt banished from the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Tolken alleged that Hewitt sexually abused her during 1980 and early 1981 when she was 12. She said he told her parents he would give her a lift home after tennis squad practice but used to take her to the rugby pitch at Old Johannians.

“He made me feel as though it was part of the coaching, and would tell me he loved me. I didn't understand what sex was, but I knew what was happening was not right. It was quite bizarre,” she said.

This week, the Joburg mother said she had been reading with interest the stories about Hewitt. She vowed that she would take him to court.

“The stories are just the tip of the iceberg. He used to ask to take the girls away to other provinces on tournaments. Not many of the mothers agreed. I certainly didn't. We had no idea what was going on.

“My daughter changed after that. She started to distrust men intensely. She still does. He destroyed those girls. And he had a daughter of his own then. This is not the last you'll hear of this,” the woman said.

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