A VICTIM of predatory paedophile Bob Higgins wept in court as the football coach was convicted of abusing 23 boys and said: ‘He’s a monster.’
The 66-year-old ex-Southampton youth manager was today convicted of 45 charges of indecent assault at a re-trial.
Speaking to The News, a Portsmouth man who was abused by Higgins while a boy said there would never be justice for the manipulative pervert. Higgins was seen as God-like and used his power over trainees’ future possible careers to control them.
The man, in his 40s and who watched from the public gallery at Bournemouth Crown Court as the nine-week trial came to an end today, said: ‘No justice will ever come for him.
‘He’s just an animal, he’s a monster and obviously he’s going to go away but it can’t take back what happened to us all those years ago. We’ll never forget it.’
However, he added: ‘It’s a big weight off my shoulders.’
The victim was cross-examined for just 15 minutes at Higgins’ first trial but spent two and a half hours in the witness box at the latest trial.
The defendant ran the youth training programmes at Southampton and Peterborough Football Clubs and also spent a period as the Maltese national youth coach.
Higgins was working at homeless charity Two Saints in Fareham prior to the police investigation into the abuse.
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.
Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown, of Hampshire police, said it had been an emotional day for the victims, witnesses and families, some of whom were in court to hear the verdicts.
He said that further victims from Higgins' long career still might not have contacted the police.
He said: ‘I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of abuse, no matter how long ago it happened, to come forward.’
Mr Brown added: ‘Today's guilty verdicts are testament to the bravery and patience of all those victims and witnesses involved.
‘Bob Higgins was a predatory paedophile. He thrived on controlling and manipulating his victims and knowing that he held the career prospects of many young men in his hands.
‘He exploited that position in the most disgraceful way.
‘Many of his victims haven't felt able to speak about these horrendous experiences for most of their lives.’
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.
Claire Booth, of the specialist rape and sexual offences (Raso) unit of the Wessex Crown Prosecution Service, said Higgins gained the trust of the young players and their families to enable his offending.
Ms Booth said: ‘It's been a huge step for some of these victims, some victims have been able to talk to family members over the years and they have had that support but some victims felt unable to talk to anybody and the first time they spoke of Mr Higgins' abuse was to the police during this investigation.’