A former English youth soccer coach was convicted of 43 charges of sex abuse against 11 young players in a trial that detailed how he shattered the trust of boys who dreamed of becoming professionals.
Barry Bennell was found guilty by a jury on Thursday of seven charges of sexual abuse, adding to 36 from Tuesday at Liverpool Crown Court.
The abuse occurred during his time working for northwest clubs Manchester City and Crewe Alexandra, among others, from 1979 to 1990.
The 64-year-old Bennell will be sentenced on Monday. He has previously received three jail sentences for offenses against children.
Appearing in court via video-link for health reasons, Bennell shook his head as the latest guilty verdicts were read out. There were hushed roars of “yes” by complainants in the court room.
“For decades, we held our silence, just like our abuser told us,” Micky Fallon, one of the victims, said outside court.
“For decades we lived in fear. Today, the stolen voices of a generation have been heard.”
Before the trial, Bennell pleaded guilty to seven counts of indecent assault involving three boys. It means that, in total, he faces 50 convictions.
“Manchester City FC offers its heartfelt sympathy to all victims for the unimaginably traumatic experiences they have endured,” City, the current leader of the Premier League, said in a statement.
“No one can remove their suffering or that of others who suffered sexual abuse as children as a result of their involvement with football.?All victims were entitled to expect full protection from the kind of harm they endured.”
City investigated whether the club facilitated sexual abuse of children, and it identified serious allegations against two people: One of them was Bennell, the other was deceased.
During an often harrowing trial, boys coached by Bennell told the trial how he had a power hold over them as they dreamed of becoming professional players. They were abused at Bennell’s home – 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 was a “child molester on an industrial scale.”
Another of those abused, Steven Walters, questioned how those in authority allowed Bennell to operate.
“For years, hundreds and hundreds of us were groomed in plain view, lavished with gifts and designer sports gear and taken on trips all round the world,” Walters said outside court. “How can it be that no one realized something was wrong? How was it that no one protected us?
“We suffered because of a disgusting predator, but we also suffered sometimes because the sport we love decided that the reputation of a coach, a club or a sport was put above the protection of children.”
The judge told Bennell, who had part of his tongue removed due to cancer, that he must be taken out of custody and attend the sentencing hearing.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80