Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Bob Higgins trial: Football abuse jury played dead man's evidence

Billy Seymour
Image caption Billy Seymour died in a car crash in January

A former footballer, allegedly abused by his youth coach, died in a car crash before he could testify at court in person.

Billy Seymour, who died in January, accused Bob Higgins of molesting him while he was a Southampton FC trainee.

A recording of a police interview with Mr Seymour was played to jurors in which he described being sexually touched in Mr Higgins' car and home.

Mr Higgins, 66, denies 51 counts of indecent assault at his retrial.

Judge Peter Crabtree OBE told the jury the evidence from Mr Seymour should be treated no differently from that of any other complainant.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard he first contacted the NSPCC about the allegations in 2016.

In the recording, Mr Seymour said Mr Higgins gave him "preferential treatment" before abuse started when he was 13.

He said Mr Higgins encouraged him to put his head in his lap during lifts homes from training sessions.

"He was stroking my head - just praising me really, telling me big things were going to happen if I carried on the way I was," said Mr Seymour.

Image copyright Solent News & Photo Agency
Image caption Bob Higgins is accused of abusing youth players at Southampton and Peterborough United

Mr Seymour said there were occasions he would stay at Mr Higgins' home overnight while training in Southampton.

He said he was molested after being invited to lie on the defendant's bed, prompting him to run out of the house to find a phone box so he could call his parents.

Mr Seymour said he told his mum he was feeling homesick and wanted to be picked up - but could not bring himself to tell her what had really happened.

"I physically couldn't get it out of my mouth - it was my mum," he said.

Mr Seymour said his parents told him to stay one more night so he returned to the house and found Mr Higgins started treating him differently.

He said the coach "made my life hell at training - a total reverse of the preferential treatment".

Image copyright Hampshire Constabulary
Image caption Billy Seymour was indecently assaulted six times, the court was told

The jury was played an audio recording of Mr Seymour being cross-examined by defence barrister Alistair MacDonald QC at last year's trial.

In that recording, Mr Seymour acknowledged he had given a statement to police in 1990 about Mr Higgins which did not include many details of the abuse he alleged later.

He said this was because he was "not ready" at that point to talk about what had happened.

"I dealt with it like I deal with most of my problems - on my own," Mr Seymour said.

"The horrific things that had happened to me - I suppressed them and put them in a box."

Mr Higgins is accused of sexually touching 24 boys, mostly Southampton and Peterborough United youth players, between 1971 and 1996.

The trial continues.

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