Ex-pro who campaigned to bring ex Peterborough United youth coach to justice died before paedophile was convicted

An ex-pro footballer who campaigned to bring paedophile ex-Peterborough United youth team manager to justice died months before seeing his abuser convicted.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 4:22 pm
Pictured (NOT TODAY): Bob Higgins at an earlier appearance - first time seen without being covered up. Bob Higgins trial is due to start in Bournemouth today. © Solent News & Photo Agency UK +44 (0) 2380 458800 PPP-190327-132130003

Billy Seymour, a Southampton youth player who went on to play for Coventry City and Millwall, was the only alleged victim in the trial to waive his right to anonymity.

The ambassador for the Offside Trust, which campaigns against child abuse in sport, told the first trial how he took to drugs and alcohol as a “coping mechanism” for the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Higgins.

But before the retrial could begin at Bournemouth Crown Court, Mr Seymour died when he was the passenger in a van driven by a drink-driver that crashed in Sonning Common, Oxfordshire, on January 3.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

File photo dated 01/06/18 of a court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Bob Higgins watching a witness interview in the dock at Salisbury Crown Court, as he has been found guilty at Bournemouth Crown Court of 45 charges of indecent assault against teenage boys. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday May 23, 2019. See PA story COURTS Football. Photo credit should read: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire EMN-190523-151424001

His evidence, recorded during the first trial, was then played to the jury at the retrial in his absence.

Adam Feest QC, prosecuting, told the jury Mr Seymour stood out as the person who was most affected by the defendant’s sexual abuse.

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 the defendant would grope Mr Seymour and also make him lay his head in his groin.

Mr Feest said the abuse continued when Mr Seymour would stay at the defendant’s home, as well as during a training trip to Sweden, and the sexual behaviour became “normalised in Billy’s mind”.

In his evidence, Mr Seymour told the court: “I wouldn’t say I fell in love with him but I had a lot of love for him at the time, I thought the world of him.”

Describing one occasion, Mr Seymour said: “I felt like my head was going to explode, like I was going to puke, vomit.

“My head was pounding, I was sweating, I just had to run out of the house, I was frightened, scared, I was panic-stricken, it was blind panic, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know where to run.”

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”.

He added 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 he smelt like Bob and he’s inside me”.

Alexander Clarke, 38, of no fixed abode, was jailed for seven and a half years at Reading Crown Court after pleading guilty to causing Mr Seymour’s death by dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.