London (AFP) – Former youth football coach Barry Bennell was found guilty of multiple counts of child sexual abuse on Tuesday, triggering tears from those who accused him of assaulting them as youngsters.
Bennell, 64, who coached at Crewe Alexandra and scouted for Manchester City, was found guilty on 36 counts involving 10 child victims between 1979 and 1990.
The trial at Liverpool Crown Court in northwest England heard that Bennell has served prison sentences for prior sex offences.
During the trial, prosecutors told the court that Bennell was a “child molester on an industrial scale” who groomed not only his victims but their families too.
His accusers told how how he was treated with great reverence at Manchester City’s ground and had a “power hold” over the boys as they dreamed of becoming professional footballers.
He abused the boys at his homes, where he had arcade games and exotic pets including a puma and a monkey, but also on trips away and in his car while on the way to and from training, jurors heard.
Bennell, who appeared in court via videolink due to illness, declined to give evidence in his defence.
– ‘I had a victim’ –
The court was read a transcript of a police interview with Bennell conducted in February 2017.
Bennell denied abusing one boy but admitted that he had stayed at his house and slept in his bed.
He said the youth footballer would have been too young for him to be attracted to when they first met.
He said: “I always tended to aim for the 13-year-olds.”
Bennell also claimed he had been abusing another boy at the time.
He said: “I had a victim; I didn’t need two or three or four.”
He was convicted Tuesday of 27 counts of indecent assault, seven counts of buggery and two of attempted buggery.
Sky News television reported that some of those who accused Bennell of child abuse wept in the courtroom as the guilty verdicts were read out.
Before the trial, Bennell admitted seven counts of indecent assault involving three boys, two of whom were part of the trial.
That left Bennell facing trial on 48 counts. He has been convicted on 36; the jury was ordered to return not guilty verdicts on three, while two others were alternative charges so will not now be dealt with.
The jury were to resume their deliberations on Friday on the seven outstanding counts.