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Football coach 'abused one victim more than 100 times'

Barry Bennell appeared at Liverpool Crown Court accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse.

Barry Bennell is charged with 48 counts of child sexual abuse.
Barry Bennell is charged with 48 counts of child sexual abuse. PA

Former football coach Barry Bennell was a "predatory and determined" paedophile who engaged in systemic abuse of young boys, a court has heard, with one alleged victim claiming he was abused on more than 100 occasions.

The 63-year-old appeared at Liverpool Crown Court via video-link on Tuesday, accused of 48 counts of child sexual abuse, including indecent assault, buggery (now known as male rape) and attempted buggery on boys aged between eight and 14.

Nicholas Johnson QC, prosecuting, told the court that the ex-Crewe Alexandra coach, who has since changed his name to Richard Jones, worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire in the late 1970s and into the 1990s.

Bennell's job, Mr Johnson said, gave him "pretty much unfettered access to large numbers of young lads who dreamt of a life in professional football.

"Although it seems that Mr Jones, or Mr Bennell, was a skilled and relatively successful coach, we allege that he had a much darker side.

"He was also, we say, a predatory and determined paedophile: his particular predilection was pre-pubescent boys".

Mr Johnson said some of the abuse took place at the ground of Crewe Alexandra and when the football club was on tour, while many of the incidents also took place at his home addresses.

Bennell appeared in court via video-link.
Bennell appeared in court via video-link. Elizabeth Cook/PA

The jury was also told that one alleged victim had been abused by Bennell on more than 100 occasions after meeting him when he was a scout for Manchester City.

Mr Johnson said the complainant and other boys would stay at Bennell's house, which he said at first seemed an "attractive proposition" for the youngsters.

"Not only was there the promise of high quality football, but they were given lots of sports kit and allowed to eat takeaway food," he said.

Bennell denied sexual contact with the complainant when questioned by police and told them he was "one who got away with it".

The court heard Bennell would "play fight" with the boys, put on horror films for them and play a game with them called Follow Me, where they would mirror his actions and he would increase degrees of intimacy to gauge whether they would be compliant to abuse.

The complainant alleged he would turn the lights off once the boys were in bed and would play music to mask the sound of the abuse, the court heard.

Bennell worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire.
Bennell worked as a youth football coach in Cheshire, Manchester and Derbyshire. PA

On Monday, ahead of the starting of the trial, Bennell pleaded guilty to six counts of indecent assault.

He also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of indecent assault at an earlier hearing.

The seven offences Bennell has admitted relate to three victims aged between 11 and 14, and happened between 1981 and 1991.

Mr Johnson told jurors that some of the evidence they would hear concerned serious sexual allegations made in the past against Bennell by young footballers in England, Wales, and the US.

The prosecutor continued that as a result of some of those allegations, the former coach had pleaded guilty to a number of sex offences and served prison sentences in the UK and in the US.

When interviewed about the allegations he currently faces, Bennell occasionally said people were making things up about him and using details they had found on the internet, put there by youth footballers who previously made complaints of serious sexual misconduct against him, Mr Johnson told the court.

"He alleged that he is now in effect the victim of a concerted effort by people from the past to make false allegations against him," Mr Johnson said.

"He suggested that when, in the past, he had been arrested for serious sexual offending, he had admitted what he had done."

Mr Johnson told jurors they would have to decide based on the evidence they heard in court whether they were listening to a group of men who, as Bennell alleges, had "jumped on the bandwagon" and maliciously made up stories, or if they agreed with the Crown's case that a devious paedophile was committing serious sexual offences on a large scale and over a long period of time against "very vulnerable lads".

He continued;: "In those circumstances we will suggest in due course that it is no surprise either that the extent of his offending has taken so long to emerge or that there is repetition in the way, we allege, he committed his offences."

The jury was also told that Bennell was appearing via video-link as he needs to be fed through a tube due to an illness, but if he gave evidence during the trial he would be present in court.

Bennell denies the charges and the trial continues.

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