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Bob Hewitt gets effective six years in jail

The former tennis player was found guilty of rape and indecent assault in March.

Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt outside court after being sentenced to an effective six years in jail for rape and indecent assault. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Former tennis player and coach Bob Hewitt has been sentenced to an effective six years in jail after being found guilty in March of two counts of rape and one of sexual assault.

Three women, namely Suellen Sheehan, Theresa Tolken, and another victim who chose to remain anonymous, testified during his trial, saying he took advantage of them when he was their tennis coach during the 1980s and 1990s.

Hewitt had denied the allegations of rape and sexual assault.

It has taken more than 30 years for his victims to come forward and today their emotions couldn't be contained as the sentencing was bittersweet for them as Hewitt will not go to prison today.

He will appear in court again tomorrow, when his legal team will apply for leave to appeal the conviction and sentence.

The victims say they're disappointed, and were hoping the case would have come to an end today.

In his sentencing on Monday, Judge Bert Bam went into great detail about the seriousness of rape but also took Hewitt's age and health into consideration.

Bam said Hewitt was not terminally ill and could be treated in prison for his heart condition.

The judge said that to impose a sentence was a difficult job as the crimes happened more than 30 years ago.

He added that the two children who were raped were at a tender age, a most aggravating circumstance and said Hewitt had shown no remorse.

Hewitt will also have to pay a total of R100,000 to be used by the Department of Justice to fund its campaigns against the abuse of women and children.

HEWITT'S TESTIMONY

When testifying in February Hewitt said it would be impossible to have sex with a 12-year-old student without her being injured.

Hewitt said: "If I had sex with Tolken, she would've had to go to the hospital straight. I can assure you."

"If the witness claimed she pulled her own panties down, then how can the state say there was no consent," he asked the court.

The former player admitted he wrote letters to Tolken but was just trying to provide fatherly love to her because he felt sorry for her.

He said she didn't have a good relationship with her father.

Tolken claimed Hewitt made her touch him inappropriately and raped her.

Prosecutor Carina Coetzee pointed out that Hewitt wrote the word love eight times in a letter addressed to Tolken.

Hewitt told Tolken that he loved her, that his heart started beating faster when he knew he was going to see her and that he wanted to kiss her.

He has admitted the letters pictured here were inappropriate.

'RAPE IS ENJOYABLE'

When the defence failed to get the case dismissed, the 75-year-old took the stand and for the first time addressed the rape allegations made against him.

One of the alleged victims claimed when she was 14-years-old, Hewitt told her rape was enjoyable in all cases and that when he did it to her, she must just lie down and enjoy it.

Hewitt then denied saying this to her, and said he made the comments to his male students.

He said through these comments he meant the students should not fear taking a bad shot in terms of tennis, but he realised it wasn't the right thing to say.

A LANDMARK CASE

Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) said the rape trial could be a landmark case for victims who take many years to come forward.

WMACA's Tania Otto, who monitored the trial, said there had been a lot of criticism as to why these women only came forward 30 years later.

"You can't just get over it because the long-term effects of child abuse carry on into your elderly years."

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