Hewitt victim recalls painful, surreal journey

2015-02-10 19:47
Suellen Sheehan composes herself during a break in court proceedings. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Suellen Sheehan composes herself during a break in court proceedings. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - One of the women accusing former tennis champion Bob Hewitt of raping her said on Tuesday she had no expectations about how the court would rule on the matter.

"I have absolutely no expectations, so I cannot be disappointed," Suellen Sheehan told reporters outside the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, sitting in Palm Ridge.

Fidgeting with her phone, she said it had been a painful and surreal journey.

The Australian-born Hewitt, 75, is facing two charges of rape and one of indecent assault. He has pleaded not guilty.

A few minutes earlier, dressed in a brownish jacket, the elderly, white-haired Hewitt walked out of court with a large bag on his shoulder.

Beside him was his wife Delaille who sat next to him in the dock during proceedings, occasionally making notes.

Wearing a black outfit and black sunglasses, Delaille walked past one reporter and shook her head as she tried to ask her a question.

Sheehan said she last saw Hewitt in court last year.

"For me what it was a very horrible experience and I pretty much got over him then. Seeing him [on Tuesday] stirred absolutely nothing in me."

Sheehan had no words for her family. She no longer communicated with them.

"I have no relationship with my family. My family supports Mr Hewitt" she said.

Asked what kept her strong throughout proceedings, Sheehan said: "My own inner self has kept me strong. My truth has kept me strong. My friends have kept me strong and I have the most divine new family that has kept me strong.

"At the end of the day, it's all about the truth and I know my truth."

She called on rape victims to speak out.

The assault

Delivering her evidence-in-chief earlier, Sheehan said Hewitt assaulted her in his car under some trees before tennis practice in Boksburg one day in 1982, when she was 12. It was just before her 13th birthday and started her first period.

"On this day, the groundsman Themba was not around," she said to questions from her lawyer Carina Coetzee.

She testified that Hewitt lowered the seat of his car and told her to pull down her underwear.

"I'm not sure whether this was an instruction," she said.

"He put his penis inside me. I remember exquisite pain," Sheehan said.

"I don't remember how long it lasted, whether it lasted 20 seconds or 20 minutes.

"I remember looking for Themba," Sheehan said.

Hewitt then told her to go and clean herself up.

"I remember a horrible odour," she said, adding that in her adult life, she learnt that the wet, sticky substance was semen.

"I didn't object. I was told this was something I was to do and I did it," she said, adding that she respected Hewitt.

"I needed to listen to him in order to grow up and mature. I didn't actively say this is what I didn't want. I didn't put up any resistance. I accepted it," she said.

Sheehan said certain smells and sounds took her back to that day.

She never saw a doctor.

"I've broken my arms at times and never told my parents for days," Sheehan said.

Terry Price, for Hewitt, claimed her timeline did not correspond with when the Hewitts relocated to South Africa.

Sheehan, however, remained adamant that Hewitt raped her in his blue car, which had a soft top and black leather seats, in 1982.

Before this, there were times when he would stand behind her and she could feel his erection against her back.

"He'd previously tried to look down my panties to see if I'd grown any pubic hair," she said angrily.

‘Oral sex’

On Monday, another of Hewitt's alleged victims testified. Theresa Tolken told the court Hewitt had touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform oral sex on him 34 years ago, when she was 12. He was driving her to Sun City at the time and stopped on the side of the road.

"I told my mother he made me take off my panties, told me to lie on top of him in the bath....I told her he tried to put his penis in me," Tolken testified. This allegedly happened in his hotel room at Sun City.

The court heard that a case was opened the following day, but was not pursued for various reasons. These included that the case was not opened in the area where the rape - or attempted rape as it was defined in law at the time - allegedly happened, and concerns about how she would be treated in court.

Tolken testified about three letters Hewitt wrote to her at the time.

"He would put letters in my tennis racquet bag and tell me he has left something in my bag for me and I am to destroy it when I have read it."

Sheehan said Tolken and her had never been friends. She first read about her in a newspaper in 1981.

Meanwhile, a third alleged victim was expected to testify in the trial.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    bob hewitt  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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