Bob Higgins: Coach 'let mask slip' in sex abuse trial

Image source, Other
Image caption,
Ex-Southampton youth football coach Bob Higgins is accused of multiple counts of indecent assault against boys

A former football coach let his "mask slip" when he admitted he may have been sexually aroused while giving a massage to a naked trainee, a court has heard.

Bob Higgins's confession was the "most telling moment" of his sex abuse trial, Winchester Crown Court was told.

Summing up its case, the prosecution said the "deceitful" defendant had "briefly admitted the truth".

Mr Higgins, 65, denies 50 charges of indecently assaulting teenage boys between 1971 and 1996.

Prosecutor Adam Feest QC said the former coach had given evidence that he continued the massage after possibly becoming aroused.

"This tells you everything you need to know about this defendant," he told the jury.

Mr Feest said the 24 complainants - most of them former trainees at Southampton and Peterborough United - had given "compelling" accounts of the abuse they had suffered.

He said the men's stories contained "echoes across time and space", including allegations of assaults during massages, car journeys and heading drills.

Image source, Julia Quenzler
Image caption,
Bob Higgins denies assaulting 24 teenage boys, mostly football club trainees, between 1971 and 1996

Mr Feest added that Mr Higgins used his power as a "successful and well-respected coach" to "deliberately manipulate" trainees, who regarded him as "god-like" and a "kingmaker".

The court previously heard the case arose from calls made to a helpline set up by the NSPCC to deal with abuse in football.

The prosecutor said the alleged victims had made statements "reluctantly and hesitatingly" after "locking their memories in the shadows for so many years".

"Those men looked at their children and said 'Not you, it's not going to happen to you' and came forward," he told the jury.

The trial continues.

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