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  1. ITV Report

Paedophile football coach found guilty of assaulting teenage boys

A court artist's image of Bob Higgins Credit: PA Images

Predatory paedophile ex-football coach Bob Higgins has been found guilty of 45 charges of indecent assault against 23 teenage boys.

A jury returned guilty verdicts following a retrial at Bournemouth Crown Court which heard that the 66-year-old sexually abused schoolboy players during 25 years.

The defendant ran the youth training programmes at Peterborough and Southampton Football Clubs and also spent a period as the Maltese national youth coach.

The trial heard that Higgins abused his "position of power" over the future careers of the young players in order to take advantage of them for his own sexual needs.

He was accused of groping them during post-exercise soapy massages as well as at his home and in his car.

Higgins, who showed no emotion as the verdicts were read, was also convicted of a further count of indecent assault at the original trial held last year.

He was cleared of five counts of indecent assault and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on a final charge.

The trial heard victim after victim speak of the abuse carried out by Higgins in similar situations - during post-exercise soapy massages, in his car while he played love songs on the stereo and at his home where he cuddled with the boys on his sofa.

Many of the victims described Higgins as God-like, their mentor and their father figure showing the influence he held over them.

Several spoke of their inability to make a complaint against him because they feared it would be the end of their burgeoning football career.

The court heard that Higgins was acquitted at a trial held in the early 1990s of a series of indecent assaults including against former-pro Dean Radford who waived his right to anonymity to give evidence as a witness in the current trial.

Higgins is the latest in a string of high-profile prosecutions of former football coaches with 64-year-old Barry Bennell being jailed in February 2018 for 30 years for sexual offences against junior players at Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.

George Ormond, 62, who worked for Newcastle United's youth team was given a 20-year prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court in July 2018 for sex abuse offences spanning 25 years.

Former Celtic youth coach James McCafferty, 77, of Lisburn, Northern Ireland was jailed for six years and nine months at the High Court in Edinburgh on May 14 for 11 charges against 10 victims.<