An ex-Posh trainee who was abused by ‘predator’ former youth coach Bob Higgins has said the pain of assaults would stay with the victims forever - as Higgins was locked up for 24 years.
Higgins (66), who was youth coach at London Road in 1995-1996, was jailed for 46 counts of indecent assault on young trainees at Winchester Crown Court today (Wednesday).
Speaking outside court, Dion Raitt, a victim of Higgins while a trainee at Peterborough United who has waived his right to anonymity, said: “Football was our lives, football was our dreams, football was all that mattered, we would have done anything to make it as a professional footballer.
“Bob Higgins used our desire and determination as a tool to exploit our vulnerability for his own sexual gratification.
“Being believed is so important to us after so many setbacks and rejections in pursuing this evil man.
“We are saddened by the hurt that was inflicted on not only so many boys but also our families and friends.
“The verdict and sentencing do not wipe the slate clean and it is not a magic wand that can remove the pain and suffering that will be with us forever.”
Mr Raitt also questioned how the Football Association and Southampton and Peterborough United Football Clubs failed to stop Higgins.
He said: “Sadly, because of potential failings at Peterborough United and the FA, we were subjected to horrific abuse at the hands of Higgins.
“We may have legal justice and Bob Higgins is now finally in prison as a convicted paedophile but we are the ones that have to live with the impact of his crimes every single day.”
Former Southampton player Dean Radford, who was a complainant in a trial in the early 1990s in which Higgins was acquitted and who has waived his right to anonymity, read a statement on behalf of some of those abused while training at the Hampshire club.
Fighting back tears, he said outside Winchester Crown Court: “Today is not just about us complainants and witnesses who have suffered through this nightmare. It’s the wives, girlfriends, sons and daughters and family and friends who have suffered with us.
“We are all blessed with their patience and support. They have all been affected too.
“You can call us brave, you can call us courageous but that we are not. We were just the unlucky ones who fell into the entrapments of Higgins’s manipulative, deceitful and sexual behaviour.
“We’re sure there are others out there who suffered under his reign who may not have the courage to speak out. But my message to you is ‘Don’t be afraid’, you will be listened to.”
The assaults took place whilst Higgins administered soapy water massages to the boys, as well as during training sessions, at the home address of Higgins, in his car, and at training camps across the country.
Jurors spent more than 41 hours poring over the evidence before delivering the 45 guilty verdicts – two and a half years after Hampshire Constabulary’s Operation Marmion team first launched its investigation in November 2016.
A packed courtroom at Winchester Crown Court was brought to tears as emotional victim impact statements were read out by many of the brave men who found the courage to report the horrific abuse.
Following the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown said: “Bob Higgins used his position as a trusted and respected football coach to abuse young boys for decades.
“He exploited this privileged position where he was given largely unsupervised access to children, in the most horrendous way. The power and control he exerted over these boys is deeply disturbing and the affect his actions had on these boys- now men, cannot be underestimated.
“His actions have destroyed the lives of many of his victims – some of whom have only recently had the confidence to acknowledge this abuse and report it to police.
“Today’s sentence reflects how seriously we take this sort of offending and should offer hope to those people who have been victims of non-recent sexual abuse that any information they give will be taken extremely seriously and investigated thoroughly.
“I would like to thank those men who came forward and who have worked with us over the past couple of years – often having to disclose some of the most personal information. We appreciate how difficult and distressing this has been for them and their families, friends and loved ones.
“I would also like to thank my officers and staff who have been tenacious and determined in the pursuit of justice. They have overcome all sorts of difficulties to ensure Bob Higgins was put before a court and the victims of his long-spanning abuse got the justice they truly deserved.”
Anyone who has been a victim of child abuse, or has any information about this type of abuse, is encouraged to contact police on 101.
Alternatively, contact Child Line on 0800 11 11, or if you are an adult who has been affected, you can call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.