Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Bob Higgins trial: Football coach 'groped boy on sofa'

Bob Higgins Image copyright Solent News & Photo Agency
Image caption The former football coach faces 51 counts of indecent assault

A trainee footballer who went on to enjoy a successful top-flight career was groped by his youth coach while watching television, a court has heard.

The complainant told jurors that Bob Higgins stroked him under his shorts as they sat together on a sofa.

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

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

Image caption Mr Higgins is accused of sexually touching and groping 24 boys between 1971 and 1996

The accuser, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Bournemouth Crown Court he was 14 years old when he was touched inappropriately.

He said trainees had gone to Mr Higgins' home after a training session still wearing their kits.

The man described sitting on the defendant's lap in a dark room lit only by the television screen.

He said there could have been seven boys present.

"There was a gradual movement of his hand along my leg to my shorts," he said.

He said he initially thought Mr Higgins' hand had slipped but then felt the defendant stroking him under his shorts.

"I froze," the man said. "I remember getting up and leaving the room."

After that day, he told the court, he tried to avoid situations where Mr Higgins could touch him.

Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Mr Higgins is facing a retrial at Bournemouth Crown Court

Alistair MacDonald QC, defending, said the complainant had later written a thank-you card to Mr Higgins for helping him to become a successful footballer.

The barrister asked why he would do that if his claims about the abuse were true.

"Misguided loyalty - call it what you want," he replied.

He told the court he had decided to come forward after speaking to another former trainee who told him he had been abused.

"I have buried it away for so long and it needs to be said," he told jurors.

The trial continues.

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