Ex-professional footballer Billy Seymour took to drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism for the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of “predatory paedophile” football coach Bob Higgins, a court has heard.
Mr Seymour, a Southampton youth player who went on to play for Coventry City and Millwall, is the only alleged victim in the trial to have waived his right to anonymity.
Adam Feest QC, prosecuting at Salisbury Crown Court, told the jury that Mr Seymour ‘stands out as the person who has been most affected by the defendant’s sexual abuse of him’.
He said Mr Seymour decided to train with Southampton Football Club because of the ‘charisma of the defendant’ and he turned down approaches from Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.
Mr Feest said the abuse began as the defendant would drive the 12-year-old Mr Seymour to training sessions in Harlow, ‘with love songs playing on the stereo, in particular Whitney Houston’.
He said: ‘Billy recalls that by this stage he was aware that the defendant had taken a shine to him, telling him that he thought a lot of him.’
Mr Feest said the defendant would grope Mr Seymour and make him lay his head in his groin.
He said the abuse continued when Mr Seymour would stay at the defendant’s home, adding: ‘Billy saw the defendant kissing and cuddling with other boys on the sofa, the defendant sandwiched between them.
‘He sat on the floor feeling sick and worried as he knew that those boys were staying only one night and he was staying longer, thinking to himself that it was going to happen to him.’
He continued: ‘Over the months he groomed Billy to such an extent that the sexual behaviour became normalised in Billy’s mind.
‘Even now, he has a persistent memory of the smell of the defendant’s aftershave.’
Mr Feest said that Higgins told Mr Seymour ‘what was happening was a beautiful thing’.
He said that on one occasion after the defendant had persuaded Mr Seymour to lie in bed with him, the youngster fled the house half-dressed.
Mr Feest said: ‘This was all too much for Billy. He describes feeling like his head was going to explode.’
He said further abuse happened on a trip to Sweden after which Mr Seymour soon decided to leave Southampton for the Lilleshall Football Association academy, causing the defendant to get ‘extremely emotional and upset with him’.
Mr Feest said: ‘The defendant got on his knees and told Billy that he loved him.’
Mr Feest said that later in life, Mr Seymour’s ‘life imploded’ and he was ‘misusing drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, coping with what happened to him at the hands of this defendant’.
Mr Seymour was imprisoned in 2010 for holding a plasterer’s knife to a taxi driver’s throat ‘because the man’s eyes “looked like Bob” and that he “smelt like Bob”,’ Mr Feest said
Higgins, 65, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies 50 counts of indecent assault.