Former Southampton youth coach Bob Higgins — who led Isle of Wight football schools — convicted of child sex abuse

Former Southampton youth coach Bob Higgins — who led Isle of Wight football schools — convicted of child sex abuse

Hampshire Constabulary issued this picture of Bob Higgins, taken during a police interview. Picture credit: Hampshire Constabulary/PA Wire.

Hampshire Constabulary issued this picture of Bob Higgins, taken during a police interview. Picture credit: Hampshire Constabulary/PA Wire.

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A FORMER Southampton youth football coach who abused boys for a quarter of a century — and led football schools on the Isle of Wight in the late 1980s — has been convicted.

Robert ‘Bob’ Higgins, 66, was branded a ‘predatory paedophile’ in court as he faced 51 counts of indecent assault relating to 24 boys, between 1971 and 1996.

Most of his victims were youth football players at the time of the offences.

On Thursday (May 23), he was convicted of 45 offences following a trial by jury.

Prosecutor Adam Feest told Bournemouth Crown Court an investigation was launched after former Crewe Alexandra football players appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show alleging they had been abused as children.

The NSPCC subsequently set up a helpline for other victims.

“The telephones started ringing and one name was mentioned over and over again. That is the name of this defendant, Bob Higgins,” Mr Feest said.

“His reputation as a coach was high, and many young teenagers often turned down more prestigious clubs so they could train with him. The prospect of that type of career was one which many teenage boys would give a huge amount for.

“For some of these boys he developed a perverse sexual attachment, telling them he loved them and getting them to show signs of affection towards him.

“Behind all this abuse lay a systematic and all pervasive pattern of grooming behaviour.”

The case was investigated by detectives from Hampshire Constabulary’s Operation Marmion team, which specialises in non-recent child sex abuse.

DCI Dave Brown, senior investigating officer, said: “These 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.

“After taking the extremely brave step of coming forward and reporting this abuse to police, they have then had to go through the stress and strain of a very public crown court trial, as Higgins maintained his innocence throughout.”

In a joint statement, Higgins’ victims said: “When Bob Higgins returned to court eight weeks ago, he gave a clear message to us all with his continued refusal to accept responsibility for what he did to us as children.

“However, that message made us all stronger and more determined.

“The verdicts from the jury after hearing all of the evidence mean Mr Higgins’ arrogance and lies have finally caught up with him.

“At last, after all these years, we can finally get a sense of closure and try to move on from this nightmare.”

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