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Barry Bennell found guilty of sexually abusing youth footballers

The Guardian logo The Guardian 13/02/2018 Daniel Taylor

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 (Video provided by Press Association)

The former football coach Barry Bennell has been found guilty of multiple sexual offences against boys whom he targeted in the youth football set-ups of Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra.

The jury heard he had used his position in the sport to disguise the fact that he was a “child molester on an industrial scale”.

Bennell, 64, was convicted of 36 charges at Liverpool crown court relating to 10 boys and the jury will return on Wednesday for a fifth day of deliberations about seven charges that are still outstanding against a man described by the prosecution as a “devious paedophile”.

Barry Bennell pictured in a YouTube video posted in October 2016. © No Credit Barry Bennell pictured in a YouTube video posted in October 2016.

After 19 hours of deliberations, the jury of five men and six women convicted Bennell of 27 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of buggery and two counts of attempted buggery. Not guilty verdicts were returned on three further charges, on the direction of the judge earlier in the trial.

Bennell previously served three prison sentences in England and the US and had been described by the prosecution as having “pretty much unfettered access to large numbers of young lads who dreamt of a life in professional football”, in his role as a youth coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.

Bennell had a seven-year association with Manchester City and also worked in Crewe’s youth academy for around the same period of time, establishing a reputation as one of the outstanding youth-team coaches and talent spotters in the business. However, the court was told he took advantage of his role to target boys and had admitted in police interviews having a “grooming process”.

The court was told he would not only groom the players but win over their parents and kept bunk beds to accommodate up to 12 boys at the house he had turned into a “children’s paradise”, featuring games machines, a jukebox and his own menagerie, including a spider monkey and a wild cat. Bennell would share his bed three at a time with his victims and put on music to mask the abuse, as well as targeting boys while working as a coach at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Pwllheli, north Wales.

His youngest victim was eight years old and other boys, up to the age of 15, were targeted while he was driving them in his car or on trips abroad. He was said to have been regarded as a “god” at Manchester City and described as having a “power hold” over the boys he went on to rape and molest, some more than 100 times, because of his reputation for finding players who went on to make it as a professional footballers.

Six of those former players, now in their 40s and 50s, were in a packed courtroom to hear the guilty verdicts being announced and some were in tears as the foreman of the jury went through the 36 different counts.

Bennell appeared in the court via video-link.

The jury is still deliberating on three other counts involving two of the complainants, as well as four counts involving a separate complainant, and the judge has indicated he will accept majority verdicts.

Bennell had already pleaded guilty to seven charges involving three boys but denied all the other counts.

He did not give evidence himself but his barrister argued that he was the “victim of a concerted effort by people from his past” and alleged that his complainants had been “jumping on the bandwagon and maliciously making up stories about him … motivated by attention-seeking or the prospect of compensation”.

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