Newbury Park tennis coach denies he hit and swore at daughters
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A father accused of subjecting his daughters to years of physical and emotional abuse had a “passive” style which was ideally suited to training children, a jury has heard.
John De’Viana, of Brancaster Road, Newbury Park, is accused of mistreating his daughters, Monaei and Nephe, as part of an obsessive bid to make them sporting stars.
It is alleged the 54-year-old swore and shouted at the girls and beat Nephe, now 19, behind a curtain at a tennis centre.
But Geoff Thompson, who worked with the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), said he could not have done so because there would be “too many people around”, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
Mr Thompson, who has worked with Tim Henman, said it was “widely felt” in the tennis community that Nephe and Monaei, now 21, had “something special”.
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The five-time karate world champion met De’Viana 37 years ago, when the defendant was representing Great Britain at junior level.
Tara Adkin QC, defending, asked if the allegation of beating “fit with his character”.
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Mr Thompson said: “No it does not, but more importantly, it would not be possible in a tennis training environment.
“There would be too many people who would witness it, report it or intervene.”
Ms Adkin asked if he had ever heard De’Viana swearing while he was coaching sessions.
Mr Thompson said: “That would have been not only non-characteristic of John’s behaviours but in the environment, being in the company of other parents, would have been professionally inappropriate.”
Mr Thompson, who is the founder and executive chair of Youth Charter - working under the United Nations, added: “John has a passive style, which is ideally suited to working with young children.”
The court has heard that Nephe was a poster girl for the LTA and featured on its adverts alongside Wimbledon champion Andy Murray.
“She had what we call in sport that glint in her eye,” Mr Thompson said.
“She had that edge on her. She had that look of intensity.”
But he denied that De’Viana had forced the girls to play and said it was impossible to do so.
“The more pressure, the more intensity you place upon that child, they will simply implode and, in coaching terms, they will simply become passive,” he said.
“That was John’s skill - to know just how much would be suitable, knowing his daughters’ personality.”
It is alleged that De’Viana wrote expletive-ridden comments on match sheets to describe the girls’ performance and referred to Monaei as a “f****** idiot” when she was just 13.
When his other daughter was 11 years old, he wrote: “Nephe is like a f****** dog being told what to do.”
But, wearing a grey cardigan as he gave evidence, he told the court his daughters were not aware of the comments and he had only ever written them down.
“It was the only way I could vent my frustration as a coach,” he said.
De’Viana denied he had forced the girls to play tennis, which he said would be “counter-productive”.
But he did admit he had “bribed” them to stretch because it was important and they did not like doing it.
He told the court: “I’m sorry but yes.
“There would be weekends off, trips to the cinema, maybe swimming, maybe McDonald’s.”
De’Viana, denies two counts of child cruelty.
The trial continues.