Friday 15 December 2017

Third police force investigating child abuse allegations in football

Andy Woodward (bottom), Steve Walters (right), Paul Stewart (left) and David White (top) were the first to come forward
Andy Woodward (bottom), Steve Walters (right), Paul Stewart (left) and David White (top) were the first to come forward

The probe into child sexual abuse within football has widened with a third police force receiving allegations.

Hampshire Police said its detectives are investigating non-recent child abuse ''within the football community''.

The statement came after Cheshire Police revealed that ''a growing number of disclosures'' had been made to the force and Northumbria Police said it was investigating an allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle player that he was abused in the club's youth system.

A string of former footballers have come forward since Andy Woodward became the first to speak out publicly last week about abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted child abuser Barry Bennell, a former Crewe coach.

It means that three police forces - Cheshire, Northumbria and Hampshire - are now investigating claims of sexual assault within football.

Some of the claims have come from the NSPCC, which this week set up a dedicated hotline for football-related cases.

A Cheshire Police spokesman said: ''These have included allegations made against more than one individual.''

The news came after former Manchester City youth-team player Jason Dunford alleged that a paedophile ring was running in professional football and was covered up as part of a conspiracy.

Dunford, who waived his right to anonymity, claimed the scandal is bigger than the one involving former television presenter Jimmy Savile and that football clubs failed to protect youngsters.

Dunford, who said he had been staying at a Butlins holiday camp after winning a football competition when he alleges Bennell attempted to touch him in bed, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme: ''I believe there was a conspiracy and paedophile ring.

''There were people at those clubs who had a duty to look after boys coming through their system.

''I think Savile looks like a choirboy compared to this fella.''

Chris Unsworth, 44, a former Crewe youngster, has also made allegations against Bennell and claimed the club turned a blind eye, telling host Victoria Derbyshire it was ''swept under the carpet''.

Ex-England and Manchester City players David White and Paul Stewart and former Crewe player Steve Walters have also spoken out about being sexually abused by football coaches as children.

The NSPCC hotline, set up in response to the widening scandal, received 50 calls within the first two hours of its launch.

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and several junior teams in north-west England and the midlands, sexually abused young boys across three decades from the 1970s onwards.

He was given a four-year sentence for raping a British boy on a football tour of Florida in 1994 and then a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 when he pleaded guilty to abusing a boy at a football camp in Macclesfield in 1980.

Crewe's director of football, Dario Gradi, expressed sympathy to the victims of Bennell in a statement, and said the club would be carrying out an internal investigation. Manchester City said it was also reviewing Bennell's links with the club.

An allegation by an unnamed former Newcastle player that he was abused in the club's youth system is also being investigated, Northumbria Police said.

The Guardian said the former player had contacted police to make allegations against George Ormond, a coach in the north-east who was jailed for six years in 2002 for carrying out numerous assaults across a 24-year period.

Newcastle said they would co-operate with authorities ''if or when the club receives further information''.

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