Tennis coach verbally and physically assaulted daughters, court told

Damien Gayle
John De’Viana denies charges of cruelty and assault, ill-treatment and neglect of a child under 16. Photograph: Andrew Holt/Getty Images/VisitBritain RM

A father obsessed with training his daughters to be tennis champions withheld food and verbally and physically abused them when they failed to meet his expectations, a court has heard.

Monaei and Nephe De’Viana, now 21 and 19, claim their father, John De’Viana, 55, made them practise from 5.30am until they went to bed, swore at them, and refused to give them their packed lunches when he was dissatisfied with their efforts.

David Povall, prosecuting at Snaresbrook crown court, said: “John De’Viana behaved in a way that went so far as child cruelty as the law defines it, that is he assaulted or ill-treated his children over time so as that the cumulative effect was likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health.

“He did that on the Crown’s case by way of physical assaults and mental abuse of those girls, relentlessly over a period of years. Each of them suggests that, perhaps with Monaei it was more verbal, causing her suffering by way of a constant stream of abuse, whereas with Nephe, he was more physical.

“They both say that, on occasions, they were forced to run round and round the tennis courts. Nephe said that went on for hours at a time.”

The court heard that Monaei claims her father spat at her as he drove her home from a tennis tournament “because he considered she had not performed as she had ought to.” Nephe said the abuse went further, alleging that her father would take her out of sight and kick and slap her if he was unhappy, placing his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.

Nephe also alleges that her father told her “she had not earned” a tennis bag she was given as part of a sponsorship deal, and humiliated her by forcing her to carry her kit into tournaments in a bin liner.

Both women said their father called them “motherfuckers” and “fat, lazy cunts”.

After constant tennis training from a young age, and being taken out of school aged 11 to focus on the sport, the girls were identified as gifted players and were given places on an elite programme and funding from the Lawn Tennis Association.

However, despite their success, both quit the sport when their parents split up.

“I told my father frequently that I hated playing tennis,” Nephe told the court in cross examination. “One time I did stop, but he manipulated me back into playing tennis.”

De’Viana, of Ilford, Essex, denies charges of cruelty and assault, ill-treatment and neglect of a child under 16.

The case continues.

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