TORONTO - Two men abused by a convicted sex offender and former high school teacher say they aren’t surprised he’s back in jail after police busted up an alleged Niagara Falls hotel sex rendezvous with a youth.
Niagara Regional Police arrested Robert Bridgeman, 52, of Pickering, in Niagara Falls on Saturday charging him with luring a child and sexual interference. He remains in custody until a Wednesday bail hearing.
Bridgeman had worked as a teacher and football coach at high schools in both London and Pickering before he was arrested and charged with sex crimes by London Police.
One victim, now 38, was the first person to contact police about Bridgeman’s abuse.
The abuse started when he was eight years old and lasted until his family moved away in his mid-teens, said the man, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.
His testimony led to Bridgeman being convicted of sexual assault and he was sentenced to 18 months in jail in 2002.
Hearing new allegations against his assailant, the victim said all the painful memories were flooding back.
“I was shocked but definitely not surprised,” he said.
He said the new arrest makes him feel glad he came forward, noting that Bridgeman’s status as a sex offender has been established with the conviction from those allegations.
“I think that’s the reason why I came forward,” he said. “To stop him, to set a precedent.
“I just hope he stays in jail.”
Another victim, now 40, told QMI Agency on Saturday that stopping Bridgeman from hurting others was the reason he broke years of silence and spoke out about his abuse.
“It’s disappointing, the whole system is disappointing really,” said the man, whose identity is also protected. “When you hear he is still (allegedly) doing it, it makes it seem like it wasn’t worth it.” The man was 16 and president of his high school’s athletic club when Bridgeman, the club’s staff advisor, invited him over to his apartment and pounced on him. Bridgeman was later convicted of gross indecency for that incident.
While he is a professional triathlete and registered massage therapist, the man said he’s still had a tough time trusting people and forming relationships.
Looking older than newspaper photos taken of him during his trials in London, Ont., back around 2002, Bridgeman appeared in a St. Catharines courtroom briefly Sunday.
A justice of the peace ordered him to remain in custody until Wednesday, giving him time to contact a lawyer for a bail hearing. Bridgeman was banned from contacting the victim or any witnesses.
The court also imposed a publication ban on the victim’s identity and any evidence discussed at the hearing.
- With files from QMI Agency