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‘Extending Hewitt’s bail sends a wrong message to rapists’

One of Bob Hewitt’s victims, Suellen Sheehan, says the rapist should not be sent home.

FILE: Former tennis champion Bob Hewitt. Picture: Gia Nicolaides/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Suellen Sheehan, who was raped by Bob Hewitt more than 30 years ago, says extending the former tennis champion's bail is sending the wrong message to rapists in South Africa.

Hewitt's application for leave to appeal his conviction has been refused but he now has permission to appeal his six-year jail sentence.

He was found guilty on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault after three women testified about how he abused them while he was their tennis coach in the 1980s and 1990s.

There was relief on Hewitt's face when the judge extended his bail today, meaning he is restricted to his home in Addo in the Eastern Cape while his lawyers continue the appeal process.

Hewitt's wife Delaille rushed to his side when proceedings adjourned.

Last month she pleaded with the court to release her husband.

But there was a heavy sigh in the public gallery, with many who've been following the case disappointed that Hewitt is still not behind bars.

Sheehan didn't attend proceedings today but says a rapist should not be sent home.

"I'm quite troubled about the fact that he is being extended bail, essentially what sort of message does this send to rapists in our country. They say he's too old to go to jail, I was 12 and not too old to be having sex and that's the bottom line."

The other two victims were also not present in court today.

Meanwhile, Women and Men Against Child Abuse say the judge in the Hewitt rape case has been fair throughout the trial.

Several women from the anti-abuse organisation have been attending the trial and say they realise Hewitt has the right to appeal.

The organisation's Tania Otto, however, says Hewitt's lawyer's argument today that there was no evidence of physical or emotional damage is laughable.

"We don't know if the attorney was doing this on purpose or if he's just that uninformed. He obviously has no idea of the long-term effects of childhood sexual abuse and has no idea what effect it has on the victim."