Ex-English youth soccer coach guilty of abusing more players
LIVERPOOL, England (AP) — A former English youth soccer coach was found guilty on Tuesday of sexually abusing 10 more young players in a trial in which he was described as a “child molester on an industrial scale.”
Barry Bennell, who has previously received three jail sentences for offenses against children, was found guilty of 36 sex charges linked to 10 complainants.
Some of the complainants were in tears as the verdicts were delivered.
The jury will return to Liverpool Crown Court on Wednesday to deliberate on seven charges involving further complainants.
The latest case against the 64-year-old Bennell, relating to abuse covering a period from 1979 to 1990, was sparked by some former players waiving their right to anonymity to speak publicly in 2016.
Boys coached by Bennell, who worked for northwest clubs Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra among others, told the trial how he had a power hold over them as they dreamed of becoming professional players.
Victims said they were abused at Bennell’s home, which was described by one complainant as a “paradise” for young boys with a pool table, fruit machine, big televisions and unusual pets, as well as on the way to matches and in changing rooms.
The prosecution said Bennell carried out the “systematic and persistent” sexual abuse of young boys, and would groom his victims and also their families.
“We suggest Mr Bennell is a child molester on an industrial scale,” prosecutor Nicholas Johnson said in his closing speech, “and that’s why he went to these lengths to get so many lads round to his house.”
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 defense.
His lawyer said Bennell’s accusers were “jumping on the bandwagon” following publicity because the coach was a “known target.”
Before the trial started, Bennell pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault involving three boys, two of whom were part of the trial.