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Shamed football coach may have abused more than 100 young players

UK News | Published:

The 64-year-old served time in jail for child sexual abuse in the 1990s.

Court artist sketch of former football coach Barry Bennell (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Barry Bennell may have abused more than 100 young footballers.

The former Crewe Alexandra coach, who was on trial for abusing 11 boys between 1979 and 1990, is still under investigation by police.

It is understood that 86 more alleged victims have come forward to report abuse by him.

Bennell, who served time in jail for child sexual abuse in the 1990s, had already been convicted of abusing 15 boys in the UK and one boy in America.

Detective Inspector Sarah Oliver, who led the investigation, said inquiries into allegations against him were ongoing and two victims had come forward during the course of his trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Ms Oliver said: “What that prompted was a wave of reporting from people that previously hadn’t felt able to come forward.

“They obviously saw individuals in the press and the media who they felt they could relate to and it enabled them to come forward and say ‘Actually, this has happened to me’.”

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Since then a team of 25 detectives have interviewed almost 2,000 people in relation to the investigation and taken more than 500 statements.

Bennell was interviewed 30 times, with each session lasting about two hours.

Asked to describe Bennell, Ms Oliver said: “Very arrogant, completely lacking in any remorse and just a very, very selfish individual.

“The only person for whom Barry Bennell does anything is Barry Bennell.”

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She said allegations against Bennell spanned a period of 20 years and their investigations revealed a pattern of behaviour which saw him groom not only his victims but also their families.

She said: “He clearly enticed families into this belief that there was this lucrative football career ahead and therefore they would take their children to his house to stay there overnight before a match.

“They would get rewarded with kit and with opportunities that they wouldn’t have got.”

Jackie Lamb, senior prosecutor for Merseyside and Cheshire CPS, added: “A great deal of trust was placed in him by parents who sent their children off for football coaching and he was able to manipulate the situation such that he would have the children staying at his address at weekends, school holidays, he would take them on soccer camps.

“He had unfettered access to them without the presence of their parents but they trusted him and he took advantage of that.”

Ms Oliver said Bennell’s victims had taken “a leap of faith” in coming forward.

She said: “It’s been a huge, huge decision for them and there are those as well that have waived anonymity and I have to say all credit to them because I think through that other people have felt empowered to come forward and report what happened.

“It’s been enormous for them and this verdict is a real vindication for what they’ve done.”

Ms Lamb also praised the bravery of the victims.

She said: “I hope that in coming forward and making this complaint and pushing it forward that it will give them some feeling that they’re shifting the burden away from themselves on to the person where it belongs, and that’s Barry Bennell.”

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