Bob Hewitt testifies at his rape trial, denies charges
JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Former Grand Slam tennis champion Bob Hewitt testified Thursday at his rape trial in South Africa, denying he sexually abused three girls he coached decades ago and saying the mother of one of his alleged victims supports him.
Hewitt, one of the world’s top doubles players in the 1960s and 1970s, was testifying for the first time at the trial in Johannesburg.
Hewitt, now 75, is charged with two counts of rape and one of sexual assault of minors in the 1980s and 1990s. Two women — Twiggy Tolken and Suellen Sheehan — say Hewitt raped them when they were minors. A third accused the former Hall of Fame member of sexually assaulting her during tennis lessons.
The Associated Press typically does not name people who say they have been sexually abused unless they agree to be identified. Tolken and Sheehan have agreed to be named. The third woman has asked not to be identified.
Sheehan testified this week that Hewitt raped her in 1982 when she was 12. She said the rape happened in his car after he had fetched her from school to take her for tennis lessons.
Hewitt denied that in his testimony.
“Sheehan’s mum has supported me that I did not do anything to her daughter. I had no opportunity to do so,” he testified, according to the South African Press Association. “I never fetched her from school. I did not even know where she went to school.”
Hewitt also denies raping Tolken, touching her inappropriately and forcing her to perform oral sex on him in 1981.
Hewitt’s third accuser testified that the 15-time Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles champion indecently assaulted her during coaching sessions in the early 1990s, and also once told her “rape is enjoyable.”
Hewitt testified he did say something similar, but was talking to a group of boys he coached and the comments were in reference to losing a tennis match.
“I jokingly said if rape was inevitable, I’d say just lie back and enjoy it,” Hewitt said, according to SAPA.
The Australian-born Hewitt won nine Grand Slam doubles and six mixed doubles titles. He also reached the semifinals of the men’s singles at the Australian Open three times and won the Davis Cup with South Africa in 1974 after moving there to live.
He was inducted into the Rhode Island-based International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992 but indefinitely suspended in 2012 after an investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse.
Hewitt was charged in South Africa in 2013 after a long investigation by authorities there.
On Thursday, the judge overseeing the trial ruled it should continue after Hewitt’s lawyer applied for a not guilty verdict because of lack of evidence.