Former tennis champion convicted of rape and sexual assault of girls he coached

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Former Grand Slam doubles tennis champion Bob Hewitt has been convicted in a South African court of rape and sexual assault.

Judge Bert Bam said he was satisfied that the two women who had accused the retired tennis player of rape and a third woman who had accused him of sexual assault were telling the truth.

The charges stemmed from events in the 1980s and 1990s, when Hewitt coached the women when they were young girls.

Hewitt, who is now 75 years old, had denied all three charges. The judge said the striking similarities among the three women’s testimonies showed Hewitt’s conduct was calculated.

Judge Bam initially ordered that Australian-born Hewitt should be taken into custody, but said he was willing to consider bail until sentencing in April. A decision is expected later.

Wearing a suit, Hewitt sat with arms crossed and appeared impassive as the judge explained the reasoning behind his verdict for nearly two hours. His wife, Delaille, sat on a chair close to the accused’s bench.

“I still don’t think he thinks he did anything wrong,” said 45-year-old Suellen Sheehan, one of Hewitt’s accusers.

Ms Sheehan, who was in court for the verdict, laid a charge of rape against Hewitt in 2011 for a crime she says he committed in the 1980s. She said her former coach raped her in his car before tennis practice when she was 12 years old.

A South African group called Women and Men Against Children’s Abuse helped two other accusers come forward and petitioned South African prosecutors until Hewitt was brought to trial this year.

Judge Bam said all three accusers were gullible young girls, flattered by the attention of a renowned player, according to the judge, who added: “Their submissiveness in the circumstances should never have been seen as consent.”