Football coach Bob Higgins jailed for 24 years for abusing trainees

2 weeks ago
10 Views

A former youth football coach has been jailed for 24 years and three months for abusing young players.

Bob Higgins sexually touched and groped 24 victims, most of them trainees at Southampton FC and Peterborough United.

In May, Higgins, 66, was found guilty at a retrial of 45 counts of indecent assault between 1971 and 1996. He was convicted of another count last year.

Judge Peter Crabtree called Higgins a “predatory, cunning” serial sex abuser who “carefully groomed” the teenagers.

Higgins’ victims told Winchester Crown Court of suicidal thoughts and relationship problems later in life.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

During Higgins’ trial, prosecutors told the court he was “idolised” by trainees, who viewed him as a mentor and father figure.

Victims said they were abused during post-exercise soapy massages, in Higgins’ car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with boys on his sofa.

Judge Crabtree said Higgins had shown “not one jot of remorse”.

“They believed you held the key to their futures,” he told the defendant.

“You normalised cuddling and stroking, which paved the way for more intimate abuse.

“For many the impact extended to their performance on the field or to turning their backs on a football career. Some of them suffered severe psychological harm.”

Higgins made no reaction as the sentence was passed.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

The allegations arose after the NSPCC set up a dedicated helpline for people who had encountered childhood abuse within football.

It was launched after a number of former footballers, including Billy Seymour, spoke on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme in November 2016.

Higgins stood trial last year, but a retrial was ordered after jurors failed to reach verdicts on 48 counts of indecent assault.

Mr Seymour, a Southampton youth player who went on to play for Coventry City and Millwall, had waived his right to anonymity to speak publicly.

He gave evidence at last year’s trial but was killed in a car crash in January before Higgins’ retrial.

On Tuesday, his mother Jean read his victim impact statement, written before his death, to the court.

Addressed to Higgins, it said: “I am sick to my stomach of giving you any more thought. I have been a broken man. You have debilitated my whole life.

“The mist is clearing. I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

“I will beat the hating of you in my soul. This is closure. Goodbye, Bob Higgins.”

‘Keep quiet or risk losing everything’

During his time as a coach, Bob Higgins worked with young footballers who would go on to become national heroes and household names.

But others were not so fortunate.

Some were haunted by their ordeals, and gave up on football entirely.

Such was Higgins’s hold over those he abused, many felt unable to say anything, even to close family members, for up to 30 years.

Read more: The ‘star-maker’ who abused young footballers

A BBC South Today documentary about the Higgins case, A Saint and a Sinner, is available on BBC iPlayer

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

BBC News – UK

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »