Monday 26 June 2017

Dad wrote 'L' for loser on daughter's head in permanent marker in bid to make her tennis champ, court told

John De'Viana, 55, outside Snaresbrook Crown Court where he is charged with two counts of child cruelty (Image: PA)
John De'Viana, 55, outside Snaresbrook Crown Court where he is charged with two counts of child cruelty (Image: PA)

Rachael Burnett

A tennis coach father wrote "L for loser" on his daughter's face in permanent marker in his obsessive bid to make her a Wimbledon champion, a jury heard.

John De'Viana, 55, is accused of subjecting his daughters, Monaei and Nephe, to years of physical and emotional abuse in his effort to make them sporting stars.

He would allegedly swear at his young girls, branding them a "lazy c*** or lazy bitch", if they did not do well in training.

De'Viana is on trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court charged with two counts of child cruelty.

Monaei De'Viana, now 21, described an incident when he was "hitting me around the head, shaking my head and screaming at me" after a tournament.

"He was always coach, he was never actually dad," she added.

"He was awful to me, I never missed him."

Nephe De'Viana, now 19, was a poster girl for the Lawn Tennis Association and featured on their adverts alongside Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, the court heard.

She claimed her father punched and kicked her after one training session, with his hand over her mouth to stop her screaming.

Monaei said she saw him drag her little sister, aged around 12, behind a curtain at a sports centre before hearing her muffled cries.

She also told the jury about an incident when, at the age of nine or 10, her father wrote an "L for loser" on her face in permanent marker.

"We had a training session and I think I wasn't performing that well," she added.

"He had written in permanent marker an L on my forehead and shut me in the caravan."

She said she suffered a panic attack after her father stormed out of a match because she was losing around five years later.

He then bought fish and chips for dinner but threw hers away, leaving her without food that evening, the court heard.

"He threw the one that he bought for me away... in a bin," she said.

Monaei said she suffered from a lot of knee and back injuries as a result of the training and that he would physically force her into painful stretching positions.

"He was trying to get my knees to bend which they couldn't do because I was in so much pain," she added.

De'Viana, of Ilford, Essex, denies both the charges against him and claims his daughters made the allegations up.

His defence counsel, Tara Adkin QC, told Monaei: "Your father says he never swore at you or put you down because that wouldn't have made you any better, it would damage your confidence."

The girls' mother Michelle Horne said her former partner was "quite excited" by the success of the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, in the tennis scene, and started Monaei hitting balls when she was just ten months old.

By the time she was in primary school she was training each day and both were pulled out before secondary school to make more time, the court was told.

"Monaei didn't really have any say, she just did what he told her to do," Ms Horne told the jury.

"She would often say she didn't want to train, she was tired and wanted to go home, but he would always convince her to play, and make her play."

She said the first act of violence she witnessed was De'Viana smacking Monaei around the face when she was five years old after a training session.

Press Association

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