Ex-tennis star Bob Hewitt guilty of raping girls in S.Africa

AFP
Bob Hewitt's name was removed from the International Tennis Hall of Fame after a series of sexual abuse allegations against him surfaced in 2013 (AFP Photo/Gordon Harnols)

Bob Hewitt's name was removed from the International Tennis Hall of Fame after a series of sexual abuse allegations against him surfaced in 2013

Bob Hewitt's name was removed from the International Tennis Hall of Fame after a series of sexual abuse allegations against him surfaced in 2013 (AFP Photo/Gordon Harnols)

Johannesburg (AFP) - Australian-born former tennis Grand Slam champion Bob Hewitt was found guilty Monday in South Africa of raping and assaulting young girls he was coaching there in the early 1980s.

Hewitt, 75, had pleaded not guilty to the two charges of rape and one of indecent assault, which were brought against him by three women in 2013.

Judge Bert Bam at the South Gauteng High Court outside Johannesburg described the evidence against Hewitt, best known as a doubles star, as "overwhelming", the SAPA news agency reported.

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At the trial, his victims said that Hewitt assaulted them during private tennis lessons when they were young girls.

"Time did not erase the crimes. A guilty person should not go unpunished. The scales of justice tip against the accused," Bam said.

One woman testified that Hewitt had told her "rape is enjoyable" as he assaulted her.

One of his victims said the former champion raped her in his car before tennis practice in 1982, when she was 12-years-old.

Another victim told the court he had touched her inappropriately 34 years ago and forced her to perform a sex act on him when she was 12 and 13.

The judge said Hewitt manipulated the young girls and they were intimidated by him.

"It is a victory, yes. It has given me a little freedom to move on with my life," said Suellen Sheehan, a victim who spoke out publicly about her experience and who was present in court.

"Victory is a hard word to use because I don't think it is a game.

"I just hope this gives hope to other victims [so they] can take something from this and be as brave as we were, and confront danger and take their perpetrators to task because ultimately they will be believed," she said.

Hewitt won numerous Grand Slam doubles titles during his career in the 1960s and 1970s and was named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992.

But his name was removed from the hall of fame in 2012, following sexual abuse allegations.

Hewitt was born in Dubbo, Australia but has spent much of his life in South Africa.

He has been supported throughout the trial by his wife Dalaille.

The former champion has also been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse in the United States where he once lived.

Rape cases dating back decades are rare in South African courts.

A date for sentencing has not been set.

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