PRETORIA – A judge in the North Gauteng High Court has granted former tennis star and convicted child rapist Bob Hewitt leave to appeal his prison sentence.
Australian-born Hewitt, 75, is out on bail, restricted to his home in Addo, Eastern Cape. Earlier this year, he was found guilty on two counts of rape and sexual assault of minors.
He was absent from court several times citing poor health when the case first began. When he appeared in court in February he pleaded not guilty to the charges, on two counts of raping children and sexual assault.
On Friday, Judge Bert Bam heard an application to have his guilty conviction and six-year prison sentence overturned.
A month ago, Bam sentenced Hewitt to eight years in prison,. The sentence was suspended for two years making it an effective six years behind bars. This was on condition that Hewitt pay a penalty fee towards supporting survivors of rape and sexual assault.
News24 reported at the time that Hewitt was ordered to serve six years in prison “on condition that he pay R50,000 to the Department of Justice to use in campaigns against violence against women.”
In March, Bam found Hewitt guilty of raping two SA girls he coached tennisin the 1980s and 1990s. He was granted R10,000 bail.
According to allegations in a six-month investigative report published in 2011 by the Boston Globe, Hewitt also stands accused of sexually assaulting several tennis pupils he coached in the United States.
These allegations however, do not form part of the South African court case.
Eyewitness News reported on Friday, that Bam considered Hewitt's advanced age, poor health and that the crimes were committed years ago.
Previously Bam stated that Hewitt "manipulated the girls to get them under his spell, and after having 'groomed' them, and after they had fallen in love with him, the accused proceeded to have intercourse with them without needing their express consent".
They were intimidated by Hewitt and submitted to him, Bam said. "The accused abused the children's trust in him."
For a timeline of Bob Hewitt the trial, click here.
State witness and a survivor of Hewitt's rape, Suellen Sheehan, spoke to eNCA.com ahead of the sentencing in May.
"He preyed on us," she said. "He groomed me for about sixteen months. He was exceptionally clever and manipulative."
Another survivor of Hewitt's abuse, who asked not to be named, said Hewitt was a "monster and a predator" and she never wanted to hear his name again.
During court proceedings, Hewitt's wife Delaille testified in support of her husband, as did Sheehan's own parents. Hewitt made several unsuccessful attempts to have the matter thrown out of court.
His daughter posted a family photograph on her Facebook profile three years ago, around the time legal action against her father began.
Hewitt, who is also a grandfather, has an adult son, who lives in the Eastern Cape and works in the citrus industry.