Matthew Hyam: Young cricketer speaks out after reading 'sickening' news of coach and child sex offender from Stansted who was 'like a cricket dad'
A former Essex girls cricketer who was coached by Stansted child sex offender Matthew Hyam said that he had been "like a cricket dad" to the youngsters in his care.
The 48-year-old, who headed up Essex County Cricket Club's women's and teenage girls' coaching, was jailed for two years and four months at Chelmsford Crown Court on September 6 having admitted four counts of taking indecent images of children, three of making indecent images of children and five counts of voyeurism. He will be on the sex offenders' register for 10 years.
Police discovered more than 3,500 images and videos on devices seized from Hyam's home in Sunnyside in June 2020 and found videos of nine girls and women taken by him over a number of years.
But the first that any of the players formerly coached by Hyam claimed to have heard about it, apart from the fact he had been suspended in 2020, was when they read the Indie's report. This was despite ECCC saying it had made members aware and been offering them support.
One of his former charges, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, contacted the Indie and said the shocking revelations had left her and her fellow female cricketers "sickened", in tears and unable to sleep.
She revealed that Hyam had been a key figure in coaching girls aged 11-18, accompanying them on tours to Europe and around the UK, training with them two to three times a week, including one-to-one sessions, and even socialising with the youngsters and their families after matches.
Hyam led the East Region Girls' Academy's 2017-18 winter programme, which saw 22 top young players, aged 14 to 17, from Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire and Suffolk undergo training sessions at Chelmsford's New Hall School and the county cricket ground and at Fenners Indoor Cricket School in Cambridge.
"He was like a cricket dad to us. He was an amazing coach and I didn't want to believe what I was reading initially," said the player.
"It was such a shock and all my emotions started pouring in. I felt confused, really hurt.
"I was crying and really worried that although it [being filmed in the changing rooms] happened directly to others, did he do something I didn't know about?
"It's ruined my whole cricket childhood. I feel like my whole life and memories of cricket have been ruined.
"I loved what I did and feel very upset, and everyone feels the same. My parents are very upset about it – all the parents trusted him.
"We're not sleeping and there's huge emotional distress as a result – and the fact Essex haven't taken responsibility or supported anyone has made it worse.
"I believe raising awareness of this subject is not only important in terms of the truth, but the future for Essex and other clubs."
She said that the girls had been supporting each other on WhatsApp.
"We made a group chat to check on each other. We were the closest team you can imagine and still look out for each other like sisters. We've supported each other since the article came out. We were all hit with something we would never have expected in our lives."
She criticised the club for its response following Hyam's sentencing, accusing it of playing down his involvement as a "part-time" employee and claiming that it was supporting those he had coached.
"It was an outright lie that they offered us support," she said. "In July 2020 Essex sent out an email to the team that he'd been suspended – we got told that and nothing else.
"Essex should be checking all the time – it's like safeguarding wasn't done. It would've taken him years to build up all those photos – it makes you feel sick. We just want Essex to take a bit of responsibility and help us and support us. They don't understand how affected we all are. It really hurts and I feel very violated, it's a horrible situation."
Essex has since revealed that Hyam worked in a part-time role for the club for 16 years, from 2004 until his arrest and suspension in 2020, and that despite his role as lead coach, he was still classified as part-time.
Said a spokesman: "Due to the police investigation and the need for anonymity, members of the women’s and girls' squads were not contacted again after they had initially been told he was being suspended from his position.
"When they were told he was suspended, they were also offered the chance to speak to someone in safeguarding should they have any concerns.
"Now Matthew has been convicted, we have contacted and offered support again to all the players, their families and those who could potentially be affected.
"Regarding safeguarding, it is at the forefront of our operations at all levels of cricket. We have followed, and continue to follow, all safeguarding procedures put in place by the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board].
"During his time working with Essex Cricket, Hyam, along with all individuals coaching at the club in any capacity, had an up-to-date coaching record and safeguarding checks."