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Barry Bennell trial: Former football coach was a 'predatory and determined' paedophile', court hears

Liverpool Crown Court hears 63-year-old assaulted two youth players in the changing rooms at Crewe Alexandra's ground

Kim Pilling
Tuesday 09 January 2018 19:35 GMT
Barry Bennell, being interviewed while a coach at Crewe Alexandra, pleaded not guilty to eight charges
Barry Bennell, being interviewed while a coach at Crewe Alexandra, pleaded not guilty to eight charges (BBC)

Former football coach Barry Bennell was a "predatory and determined paedophile" who carried out the "systematic and persistent" sexual abuse of young boys, a court has heard.

The 63-year-old, who worked as a youth coach in Cheshire, Derbyshire and Manchester from the late 1970s and into the 1990s, is accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse.

These include assaults on two youth footballers in the changing rooms at Crewe Alexandra's ground, a jury at Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, said that the ex-Crewe Alexandra coach, who has since changed his name to Richard Jones, was a "predatory and determined paedophile" who targeted pre-pubescent boys.

He said: "As such, he had pretty much unfettered access to large numbers of young lads who dreamt of a life in professional football. Although it seems that Mr Jones/Bennell was a skilled and relatively successful coach, he had a much darker side."

The jury heard one complainant alleged he was abused in the changing rooms at Crewe Alexandra's ground following a youth team game when Bennell allegedly put his hand in his shorts.

That alleged incident was interrupted by a team-mate who Bennell then pinned against a wall and threatened he would never play football again if he spoke of what he witnessed, the jury was told.

Bennell is also alleged to have performed oral sex on another youth footballer in the changing rooms at Crewe.

Many of the alleged offences took place at the home addresses of Bennell, who met some of the complainants while working as a scout for Manchester City, the court heard.

His home, where he would invite boys to stay over, was described by one complainant as a "paradise" for young boys with a pool table, fruit machine, big TVs and unusual pets, which the court heard included a wild cat and a monkey.

Several of the alleged young victims described being impressed by the "menagerie" he kept at his home.

The boys, who dreamed of a life in professional football would often stay over at Bennell's various addresses on the pretext of preparing for matches, Mr Johnson told the court.

There they would be given lots of sport kit and allowed to eat takeaway food, he said.

The court heard Bennell would "play fight" with the boys and put on horror films for them to "soften them up".

He also played a game with them called Follow Me, in which boys would mirror his actions and he would increase degrees of intimacy to gauge whether they would be compliant to abuse, the court heard.

At various times he had a wild cat and a monkey at his home, which was described by one complainant as a "paradise" for young boys with a pool table, fruit machine and big TVs.

Bennell was also alleged to have put bank notes in his briefs to entice boys.

One of his alleged victims said he recalled concerns being raised over the defendant's behaviour with children when they stayed over at his home but Bennell was able to provide reassurance to parents, the court heard.

Complainants also alleged being abused in his car on the way to and from training and on football tours.

​Bennell denies the offences of indecent assault, buggery and attempted buggery against 11 complainants, who were aged between eight and 14 at the time of the alleged offences.

But the jury heard that part of the evidence in the case involved serious sexual allegations made against Bennell by young footballers in the past, some of which he had pleaded guilty to and served prison sentences for in this country and the United States.

He has pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault related to his current trial.

When interviewed about the allegations he faces, Mr Johnson said Bennellclaimed he was the victim of a "concerted effort" by people to make false allegations.

During interviews, he told police he had been attracted to 13-year-old boys because they were "pedigree footballers who were athletic and good looking".

Bennell is due to appear on video-link for the trial as he needs to be frequently fed through a tube due to illness, the court was told.

The trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, continues.

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