Newbury Park coach ‘tyrannised’ his tennis player daughters, a court hears

John De'Viana, 54, outside Snaresbrook Crown Court. He was cleared of two counts of child cruelty. (

John De'Viana, 54, outside Snaresbrook Crown Court. He was cleared of two counts of child cruelty. (Credit: David Mirzoeff/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A coach from Newbury Park “tyrannised” his tennis player daughters to fulfil his own ambitions of sporting greatness, a court has heard.

John De’Viana, of Brancaster Road, is accused of the physical and emotional mistreatment of his children, Monaei and Nephe, as he spent years trying to mould them into Wimbledon superstars.

He was accused at his trial of subjecting them to violent and humiliating actions due to an inability to “disentangle dad from coach”.

The 54-year-old told Snaresbrook Crown Court the pair fabricated the cruelty allegations out of spite over him walking out on the family.

Prosecutor David Povall pointed to the defendant’s history as a decorated martial artist as the genesis of his alleged obsessional behaviour.

“Did it not concern you at any stage that you might be projecting your own ambitions on to your daughters?” he asked De’Viana.

“No, that didn’t concern me,” he replied.

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Concluding his cross-examination, he asked: “In reality you were unable to disentangle dad from coach, is that right?”

He replied: “That is not the truth.”

Mr Povall continued: “You tyrannised those girls to fulfil your own ambitions.”

“That is not the case,” the defendant said.

“The reality is that you became so angry, so frustrated on regular occasions that you would assault them, spit at them, insult them, humiliate them, in order to get them to do what you wanted.”

Earlier, De’Viana directly denied a list of abusive episodes against the children, claiming he only called Nephe a “f****** dog” in performance notes because she moved “like an animal”.

The prosecutor suggested several of the foul-mouthed annotations, which De’Viana claimed they did not see, were clearly addressed to them.

He said: “When you wrote ‘you f****** idiot, I promise I will f****** fix this’ who are you addressing there?”

“Me and my shortcomings as a coach and a father,” the defendant said.

The root of their anger against him was due to him abruptly leaving without explanation when he separated from their mother, Michelle Horne, in 2011, he claimed.

Asked why the girls had made the allegations, he said: “I have my theories.

“I didn’t give them the courtesy of an explanation when I left, they are not feeling too good towards me.

“I can only assume they are pretty upset with me as a father.”

De’Viana denies two counts of child cruelty.

Jurors were previously shown the collection of expletive-laden notes made by De’Viana during their games.

One written about Nephe, now 19,said: “Nephe is playing like a f****** dog being told what to do, she calls n (net) ball out and they are in, Nephe is not ever asking are you sure.”

Asked about the language, he said: “I’m not aiming that particular derogatory comment at Nephe, it is to give me an idea of what she is doing on court, she is like an animal moving around the court.

“Rather than writing all that down I use a specific word.”

He claimed that the comments, including one referring to Monaei, now 21, as a “f****** idiot” were simply used to “emphasise certain points” in his mind.

He added: “These are coach’s notes I have made for myself and my team and during a period of a match when a match goes on at such a rapid pace, I do not have time to make notes.”

Both the defendant’s brother, Jude, and the girls’ former coach, Gavin Bradford, denied ever seeing him display hostility to his daughters.

Jude De’Viana told the court: “They had a very good relationship, actually.”

Among the instances of physical abuse outlined by the girls was a time he allegedly dragged Nephe, then aged around 12, behind a curtain and punched and kicked her while covering her mouth.

She was a poster girl for the Lawn Tennis Association and featured on their adverts alongside Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, the court previously heard.

The defendant said: “I cannot (have hit her behind the curtain) because there are so many video cameras.

“It is just impossible.”

The trial continues.