Tuesday 11 December 2018

'Industrial scale child molester' - Football coach found guilty of 43 counts of child abuse

Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire
Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell. Photo credit: PA/PA Wire
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Serial paedophile Barry Bennell has been convicted of abusing more young footballers after grooming them with claims that he could fulfil their dreams of a career in the sport.

The 64-year-old, who has previously received three jail sentences for similar offences, was found guilty at Liverpool Crown Court of 43 counts of child sexual abuse against 11 victims.

It is understood the total number of victims assaulted by Bennell could exceed 100 after 86 more people came forward to report abuse following publicity about the case.

A cheer of "yes" came from the public gallery where six complainants sat with family members as the final verdicts were read out and some people were in tears.

Bennell, who appeared via videolink from prison, could be seen shaking his head at times and muttering when the final guilty verdicts were returned on Thursday.

During the course of his trial, he was described as a "child molester on an industrial scale" who would not just groom his victims, but also their families.

Victims who had been coached by Bennell as boys told how he had a "power hold" over them as they dreamed of becoming professional footballers.

He was said to have been treated like "God" at Manchester City's Maine Road ground.

He abused the boys at his homes, where he had arcade games and exotic pets including a puma and a monkey, but also on trips away and in his car while on the way to and from training.

One victim, who he had admitted abusing in 1998, said he knew of four men who had been coached by Bennell, including former Wales manager Gary Speed, who had gone on to take their own lives.

The jury was told there was no evidence to link the deaths to Bennell.

Bennell, who had part of his tongue removed due to cancer, appeared in court via videolink for health reasons and declined to give evidence in his own defence.

But the judge warned him he would be in court to be sentenced at 12pm on Monday.

The court heard transcripts of police interviews in which he admitted having a "grooming process" and being attracted to teenage boys, although he denied the new allegations and said his accusers were "jumping on the bandwagon" following publicity.

His barrister, Eleanor Laws QC, described him as being a "sitting target" after being convicted of child sexual abuse in the 1990s and in 2015.

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