Shock as Hewitt goes home

2015-05-19 11:20
Bob and Delaille Hewitt (Jenni Evans, News24)

Bob and Delaille Hewitt (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Pretoria - Gasps filled the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday as former tennis star Bob Hewitt was allowed to go home for a month while his new lawyer prepares his application for leave to appeal his convictions for rape and indecent assault.

''This is bizarre,'' said Twiggy Tolkien, who had flown out from New Zealand, where she now lives, for the trial, and to see him being sentenced on Monday to an effective six years with a R100 000 fine to be paid to campaigns against the abuse of women and children.

''This is absolute bullshit. They put someone new in at the last minute,'' she said of Hewitt's previous lawyer advocate Terry Price and his replacement advocate Johann Engelbrecht.

Judge Bert Bam listened patiently as Engelbrecht explained that it was not possible for him to launch the application in such a short time, without all the records available, and that he was not able to read between 300 to 400 pages of legal documents in a day.

He also reminded Bam that he was preparing for a month-long trial with 73 witnesses in Bam's court in June.

Lawyer working on Panayiotou case

Bam cut his almost monsyllabic submissions short when he started reciting case law on fair trials, and offered give him the outstanding papers he needed by Wednesday morning, but Engelbrecht pressed on, asking for more time.

Hewitt's previous lawyer Price is working on the defence of 28-year-old Christopher Panayiotou, who is accused with Thando Siyoli, 31 and Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, 30, for the murder of his wife Jayde Panayiotou in Port Elizabeth in April.

The matter is due back in court on Wednesday for Panayiotou's bail application.

An upset Tolkien continued: ''He has been on this case for two years, and now at the last minute he (Price) pulls out. Let him (Hewitt) start serving.

''Six years is great but if it is all just on paper and all words? He's just got to start serving it."

Hewitt and his wife Delaille stood at a distance in the passage waiting to leave for their citrus farm on the Sundays River in the Eastern Cape, while mutters of ''that sucks'' were heard around them.

''They are going to start big games now, I tell you," Tolkien said to friends who were gathered around her, offering hugs and sympathy.

''They should have taken him when they had him,'' she added.

Medical care

They could also not understand how prosecutor Carina Coetzee could agree that the 75-year-old former Davis Cup winner be allowed to go home, instead of waiting in jail until June 19.

Engelbrecht had quickly squeezed in a few more points of clarification before Bam brought an end to proceedings.

He wanted to know how he would be able to consult Hewitt if he was confined to the farm and Bam quickly interjected, ''Then you will go to him''.

And he wanted to know how Hewitt, who has had several operations and has a heart problem would receive medical care.

Australian-born Hewitt was also given permission to go and see his doctor.

Postponement ‘in the interests of a fair trial’

On Monday Delaille Hewitt had begged that he be allowed to go home to help run the farm, and to help her with her recovery from ovarian cancer which she was diagnosed with the same day she heard the allegations against her husband.

Before Bam granted the postponement, he reiterated that the crime for which Hewitt had been sentenced was serious, but that the postponement was in the interests of a fair trial, in terms of the Constitution. The actual application for leave to appeal was not made.

On Monday Hewitt was sentenced to eight years each for the rape of Sheehan and Tolkien, also a tennis student, two years of each suspended for two years, provided he pays R100 000 - R50 000 on each count - to towards a department of justice programme against the abuse of women and children.

For the indecent assault of a third person, also a teenager at the time, he received two years.

The morning had started dramatically with Suellen Sheehan, who the court found Hewitt had raped when she was a teenager getting tennis lessons from him, refusing to come into the courtroom.

This was because The Star had published a front page photograph of her sticking her tongue out and a caption saying this was at Hewitt.

The reporter apologised profusely, saying the caption had been changed, and Sheehan later entered the courtroom with red puffy eyes.

Sheehan and a supporter Martin Pelders from Matrix Men, a group which supports victims of rape said they had managed to get an agreement from the publication for a retraction, and that she had just been playing around with the photographers.

Sheehan said she was not surprised by the postponement.

''It was not unexpected at all.''

Said Pelser: ''She just wants closure. She just wants to close that chapter and get on with her life.''

Read more on:    bob hewitt  |  pretoria  |  crime  |  child abuse

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