Paedophile ex-Peterborough United youth coach was ‘kingmaker’ who used power to abuse youngsters

Paedophile football coach Bob Higgins was a “kingmaker” who used his position of power over the future careers of his young trainees to abuse them during a 25-year period, the detective responsible for investigating him said.

Thursday, 23rd May 2019, 4:33 pm
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

Detective Chief Inspector Dave Brown, of Hampshire Police, said that the 66-year-old singled-out vulnerable youngsters who he abused.

He said that he managed to escape coming under suspicion for many years through the strength of his reputation in the football world and by hiding in plain sight.

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Bob Higgins during his Peterborough United days

Higgins, youth manager at London Road in the mid 90s, was convicted of 45 counts of indecent assault today.

Along with his spell at Peterborough United, he also worked for Southampton.

DCI Brown said: “We have heard from a number of victims over the last few weeks during the court process, they all describe Bob Higgins as an incredibly talented football coach who they absolutely respected for his ability to coach them in relation to their football skills.

“They also describe him as the kingmaker, someone who held their very future in his hands and he used that position to exploit the vulnerabilities that some of these individuals had to satisfy his own sexual needs.

“Bob Higgins’ style was to be open, he demanded affection, he demanded respect from the individuals he coached, we saw through the trial he asked for letters to be written, photographs to be signed and very public displays of affection to be given to him as part of his role as a coach.”

Mr Brown said that Higgins was able to continue offending for such a long period because he was acquitted at trial in the early 1990s involving former professional football Dean Radford, whose allegation was used as witness evidence in the latest trial.

He said: “The timespan that this case covered was 1971 through to 1996, Bob Higgins was subjected to a police investigation in 1990 when a number of victims came forward, six victims came forward and provided accounts to police.

“We must respect the verdict of the court and therefore he was allowed to return to a position where he was allowed to return to a position where he could continue to coach young people in a football scenario.”

Mr Brown said that he hoped that improvements in child protection protocols could help prevent a repeat of offending like that carried out by Higgins.

He said: “There have been significant improvements in safeguarding over recent years, whilst paedophiles will look to exploit vulnerability in any system, I am confident that the checking processes that go on within sports, schools and other institutions where young people that actually the risk of offending has been significantly reduced.”

Mr Brown explained that Hampshire Police became involved in the case against Higgins following an episode of the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show in November 2016 looking at abuse in football which led to the force receiving 87 referrals from a NSPCC phone line with a further 32 people contacting them directly.

He added that he believed there could be further victims of Higgins who have not yet come forward and urged them to contact them.

Mr Brown said: “If now is the time that you or any other person who may well have been subject to non-recent abuse in the past wishes to come forward, then we are in a position to provide support to you in order to help engage with you at this difficult time in your life.”

The police investigation into Higgins was launched following the 87 referrals from the NSPCC which led to a total of 176 witness statements being taken and 56 video-recorded interviews.

This led to 48 hours of footage being recorded with a total of 225 exhibits and 838 documents being produced for the investigation.

The first trial heard at Salisbury and Winchester Crown Courts resulted in Higgins being convicted of one offence and cleared of another leading to the retrial at Bournemouth on the remaining charges.