I had phobia of eating at other people’s houses, ex-footballer tells abuse trial

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A retired footballer who trained under alleged paedophile coach Bob Higgins has told a court he became so scared he would be left alone with the defendant that he developed a phobia of eating at other people’s houses.

Higgins, 65, who ran the youth team coaching for Southampton Football Club and Peterborough United, is on trial at Salisbury Crown Court accused of 50 counts of indecent assault against 24 complainants between 1971 and 1996.

The alleged victim, who cannot be named but is referred to as Complainant I, said in a police interview video that he had transferred to train with Higgins because of his reputation as the “messiah you needed to impress” to get into professional football.

He said the coach arranged for him to stay at his home on several occasions to make it easier for him to attend training sessions.

The complainant, who was 14 at the time, said that each time he stayed it would end up with him and Higgins sitting on a couch watching television after the defendant’s wife and any other boys had gone to bed.

He said: “I was downstairs watching television with him, he would engineer it that each time I stayed he would always want to be in contact with me, sat with his arm around me, he would pull me towards him.

“He would then start putting his hand under my shirt, tickling me, rubbing my lower abdomen.”

Complainant I said Higgins then lowered his tracksuit trousers to expose himself before putting his hand inside the youngster’s pants and exposing him as well.

He said: “I felt terrified, I didn’t know where it was going, just completely scared and confused.”

Complainant I added that in later life he developed a phobia about eating at other people’s houses because he had been so scared.

He said: “I was so uptight, stomach in knots. I just ran in front of everybody to vomit in their sink. I was so scared I would be on my own with him.”

He added: “From that day I have had a phobia about eating around people’s houses unless they are close friends or family.”

The complainant said Higgins would also stare at him and initiate sexual conversations with him during car journeys to training sessions and would also shower naked with the boys afterwards.

Describing Higgins as a “very good coach with a very good reputation”, he added: “He was the messiah of that club, he was the one you needed to impress if you wanted to get anywhere.”

He said the defendant tried to get him to say that he loved him and would encourage the boys to write him “letters of affection”.

Higgins, of Southampton, Hampshire, denies the charges and the trial continues.

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