PREDATORY paedophile ex-football 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 nine-week 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.