Ex-football coach guilty of abusing teenage boys.
PREDATORY paedophile exfootball coach Bob Higgins has been found guilty of 45 charges of indecent assault against 23 teenage boys.
A jury returned guilty verdicts following a retrial at Bournemouth Crown Court which heard that the 66-year-old sexually abused schoolboy players during 25 years.
The defendant ran the youth training programmes at Southampton and Peterborough Football Clubs and also spent a period as the Maltese national youth coach.
The trial heard that Higgins abused his "position of power" over the future careers of the young players in order to take advantage of them for his own sexual needs.
He was accused of groping them during post-exercise soapy massages as well as at his home and in his car.
Higgins, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were read, was also convicted of a further count of indecent assault at the original trial held last year. The defendant, of Southampton, was remanded in custody to be sentenced on a date to be set at Winchester Crown Court.
He was cleared of five counts of indecent assault and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a final charge.
Judge Peter Crabtree thanked the jury for their service during the nineweek trial and 41 hours of deliberations.
He said: "I am grateful for your service, criminal justice cannot work without people giving up their time."
The trial heard victim after victim speak of the abuse carried out by Higgins in similar situations - during post-exercise soapy massages, in his car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with the boys on his sofa.
Many of the victims described Higgins as 'God-like', their 'mentor' and their 'father figure', showing the influence he held over them.
Several spoke of their inability to make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their burgeoning football career.
The court heard that Higgins was acquitted at a trial held in the early 1990s of a series of indecent assaults including against former-pro Dean Radford who waived his right to anonymity to give evidence as a witness in the current trial.
The public gallery was charged with emotion as the chairman of the jury announced that Higgins was guilty of six charges in relation to former Southampton trainee Billy Seymour who died in a car crash earlier this year.
The new case against Higgins was brought after the BBC Victoria Derbyshire show exposed claims of abuse in football in November 2016.
A NSPCC helpline subsequently set up led to 87 referrals to Hampshire police, all of them naming Higgins, with another 32 people contacting the force directly.
Higgins is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of former football coaches with 64-year-old Barry Bennell being jailed in February 2018 for 30 years for sexual offences against junior players at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.
George Ormond, 62, who worked for Newcastle United's youth team was given a 20-year prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court in July 2018 for sex abuse offences spanning 25 years.
Former Celtic youth coach James McCafferty, 77, of Lisburn, Northern Ireland was jailed for six years and nine months at the High Court in Edinburgh on May 14 for 11 charges against 10 victims.
And Michael 'Kit' Carson, who worked at Norwich City, Peterborough United and Cambridge United, died in a car crash on the first day of his trial at Peterborough Crown Court where he denied 13 charges.
A statement issued by Southampton Football Club said: "Southampton Football Club notes with deep regret the verdicts passed down today at Bournemouth Crown Court.
"The club offers our sympathy and support to any player who suffered any kind of abuse or harm while under our care.
"We have been working closely with the police, the FA and the Sheldon review for nearly three years to help to uncover the truth.
"While the offences cited are historic, the club is committed to constantly reviewing our current safeguarding provision to raise standards. "Southampton Football Club and our academy work closely and tirelessly with the Premier League to promote the safeguarding of children and other vulnerable people who are under our care or using our facilities, and their well-being is paramount to all our staff.
"We will continue to offer our full, open and unconditional support to the police, Premier League, FA and community processes relating to this matter."
Greg Llewellyn, who was a victim of Bob Higgins
Bob Higgins is interviewed by police
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|Publication:||The Journal (Newcastle, England)|
|Date:||May 24, 2019|
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