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Sunday 19 August 2018

Victims of paedo coach Bennell suing Man City and Crewe after verdict

Andy Woodward, a victim of Barry Bennell, and partner
Zelda leave Liverpool Crown Court. Photo: PA
Andy Woodward, a victim of Barry Bennell, and partner Zelda leave Liverpool Crown Court. Photo: PA

Civil claims for damages have been launched by victims of Barry Bennell, the football coach paedophile, against Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, with more set to follow.

Bennell (64) coached a number of junior boys' teams in the early to mid-1980s that provided youth recruits for City. Between 1985 and 1992, he was on the coaching staff at Crewe.

After being convicted of 36 child sex charges earlier this week, a jury at Liverpool Crown Court found Bennell guilty of seven more charges yesterday.

He had pleaded guilty to seven additional counts before the trial, which heard evidence he was widely revered in the football world for his advanced coaching skills which were "far ahead" of his contemporaries.

However, the outwardly flashy, charming Bennell used both clubs as vehicles to groom and manipulate pre-pubescent boys before sexually abusing them. One of Bennell's victims said he was targeted "straight away" in Bennell's Mercedes car when he started to give him lifts to and from City's then training ground at Platt Lane.

Like many other victims, he was then abused at Bennell's home as boys regularly stayed there overnight.

Unaware

Bennell was said by another complainant to have been treated like "God" at City's Maine Road stadium.

Jurors also heard from a third complainant that he thought City officials Ken Barnes and Mike Grimsley had known Bennell was targeting boys.

Mr Grimsley, a youth team coach, and the family of chief scout and ex-player Mr Barnes, who died in 2010, have said they were unaware of any abuse.

Mr Barnes previously confirmed to Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches in January 1997 that the club had received a complaint about boys staying in Bennell's room at a holiday camp. The programme also reported then Crewe chairman Norman Rowlinson had concerns - saying Bennell had "a certain magnetic attraction with boys, like the Pied Piper" - and contacted City.

Mr Barnes told Dispatches: "He said we've had one or two reports about him ... mucking about with kids or something like that. I said, 'No, I can't help you really because I have no evidence whatsoever'." In November 2016, former Crewe director Hamilton Smith told a newspaper the club had received an allegation that Bennell abused a junior footballer.

He said senior officials including the late Mr Rowlinson had contemplated sacking Bennell but concluded there was not enough evidence. Instead, it was decided he should not be left alone with boys and that overnight stays at his home would stop, he said.

Investigations

Both League Two outfit Crewe and Premier League table-toppers Manchester City are conducting their own investigations. The court heard three former junior footballers are suing Manchester City while one is planning to sue Crewe and the FA for damages.

Three other complainants in the latest trial have sought legal advice on a potential compensation claim for injuries and losses.

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