Former football coach and serial paedophile Barry Bennell has died in prison.
Described as a “pied piper” figure who preyed on young boys who dreamt of becoming professional footballers, Bennell was serving a 34-year sentence for child sex offences in HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire.
He was convicted of more than 50 sexual offences against 22 boys in 2018. He was given a 30-year sentence, but this was extended to 34 when he was further convicted of abusing two other boys.
He used his position as a youth coach in the 1980s and 1990s to abuse boys in his care. Judge Patrick Thompson told Bennell that he “grossly abused” his role “in order to use those boys as your sexual playthings.”
He said that boys were “children whose parents trused and respected you, when in fact you were a parent’s worst nightmare”. More than 100 victims were believed to have come forward to allege that they were abused by Bennell.
Bennell abused his victims while they were staying at his homes in Crewe and Furness Vale, Derbyshire. He also abused others at children’s home Taxal Edge, the court heard.
Bennell boasted that he could find professional football clubs their next young star and he would scout boys across the North West and the Midlands.
In court during his 2018 trial, Bennell‘s victims told how he had a “power hold” over them as they dreamed of becoming professional footballers.
He was said to have been treated like “God” at Manchester City’s Maine Road ground.
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.
In 2020, the court was told that Bennell had a detached retina after being attacked in prison and was also in remission from cancer.
At his sentencing hearing in 2020, Owen Edwards, prosecuting, said the case would be the final prosecution after a decision to proceed only with cases involving the most serious offences.
He said Bennell was responsible for “industrial sexual abuse of boys”, as well as being instrumental in forging the careers of several international footballers.
He was first jailed in Florida in 1994 for the rape of a British boy on a football tour in America. He faced further prison sentences in Britain in 1998, 2015 and 2018.