TWO men abused by paedophile youth coach Bob Higgins as boys have told of their relief at his jailing as it emerged more victims have come forward.
Both men, from Portsmouth, were at Winchester Crown Court as 66-year-old Higgins was branded ‘predatory, cunning and manipulative’ by a judge who jailed him for 24 years and three months for abusing 24 young boys.
‘Pure evil’ Higgins, youth coach at Southampton and Peterborough football clubs, manipulated and groomed the boys over 25 year between 1971-1996.
Both Lee Smith, 46, and 49-year-old Jamie Webb, who lived in Portsmouth but trained with Higgins in Southampton, watched as judge Peter Dixon Crabtree passed sentence on Higgins.
After waiving his anonymity Jamie said: ‘It’s going to give me closure and I just want to look forward to the rest of my life now and square some circles off a bit and find more peace in myself.’
Each of the victims at court wore a pin badge with Billy Seymour’s picture. Billy died in January in a crash before Higgins’ retrial started.
Builder Lee, who was friends with Billy, told The News: ‘For the last two and a half years it’s been totally ruined because of him. Even though there’s a long sentence today, tomorrow is a different day.
‘I’ve got to try and move forward and forget the whole situation.’
But Lee added: ‘Everyone involved with Southampton – they must have known.’
The club has an issued an apology following Higgins’ conviction at his retrial last month.
Higgins had ‘grabbed and crunched’ Lee’s genitals during heading drills as he ‘came to jump above’ the defendant,’ the judge said.
Sentencing, judge Crabtree said: ‘He fell to the floor in pain. You told him to “get up Smithy, you puff.”
‘He did and left the gym and sat out the training session. Indeed, for him that was the final straw and he did not return.’
Bearded Higgins remained emotionless in the dock as he was jailed for 24 years and three months. He stood and nodded toward the judge as he was led down to the cells. He must sign the sex offenders’ register for life.
Victims reported Higgins, who was convicted of 46 indecent assault charges following a first trial and retrial, to an NSPCC helpline set up in the wake of the football abuse scandal in 2016.
Outside court Hampshire police’s Det Chf Insp Dave Brown said more people had reported abuse from Higgins.
He said: ‘We have a number of reports, we are assessing them as to whether it will be in the public interest to take them forward.’
An NSPCC statement said: ‘Higgins’ victims have shown astonishing bravery in speaking out. Such was his power over them that many felt they had no choice but to submit and say nothing.
‘An NSPCC helpline set up to make it easier for victims of abuse in football to report their experiences, led to 87 referrals to Hampshire Constabulary. All of them named Higgins.’