Barry Bennell 'contacted alleged victim to say cancer was payback'

Daniel Taylor
An artist’s sketch of Barry Bennell appearing via videolink at Liverpool crown court. Photograph: Elizabeth Cook/PA

Barry Bennell contacted one of his alleged victims via Facebook a quarter of a century after subjecting the former Manchester City junior player to a four-year ordeal that had included raping the boy numerous times, a jury has heard.

Bennell used a Facebook account in the name of Richard Barry to ask his former player in 2009 if they could get back in touch, and referred to the fact he was now suffering cancer as “payback,” the trial at Liverpool crown court was told.

Twenty-five years earlier, he had allegedly subjected the boy, aged 10 to 14, to a number of serious sexual attacks, including raping him in the lounge of Bennell’s house after discussing an offer to sign for Manchester City.

Other attacks were alleged to have happened at the Butlins holiday camp in Pwllheli, as well as a camping trip to the same seaside town and a tour to Spain, when Bennell slept with two boys in his bed and allegedly picked him out on the first night to share with him.

In 2009, when the alleged victim was in his 30s, the court was told he received a message on Facebook that he believed to be from the man who has been described by the prosecution as a “devious paedophile” who has previously served prison sentences in England and the US.

The message to his alleged victim read: “Good to see you have a family and are enjoying life. I got cancer a while back and it’s left me in a mess. Won’t go into details but not pretty. Payback, I hear you saying. Well, I understand that. If you can find time could you drop me a line saying how your life is going? All the best, Barry.”

Now 64, Bennell has admitted seven charges of sexually abusing three boys, aged 11 to 14, but denies 48 other counts relating to 11 boys from 1979 to 1991, claiming he is the “victim of a concerted effort by people from his past”. Bennell’s account is that the complainants are “jumping on the bandwagon and maliciously making up stories about him … motivated by attention-seeking or the prospect of compensation”.

The latest complainant to appear in court, giving evidence behind a screen, is the third player who was affiliated to Manchester City’s junior system to give evidence so far against a man who went on to become the youth-team coach at Crewe Alexandra and later worked for Stoke City.

Bennell, he said, had scouted him for Manchester City after a primary school tournament in 1980 and could overpower him to carry out his crimes even when the boy attempted to resist. “I tried to fight Bennell off as much as was reasonably possible. On a couple of occasions I remember him saying: ‘You’re just not that way.’ I felt scared, as I did most of the time. He was a very intimidating person.”

The boy had been invited by Ken Barnes, then City’s chief scout, to sign for the club but, now in his 40s, remembered it being the worst day of his life because of what allegedly then happened at Bennell’s house.

The following morning, he said, he had challenged Bennell and threatened to report what had happened. “He said nobody would ever believe me because it had happened to players who were now playing professional football, naming a player, and ‘you’re wasting your time.’”

Of the trip to Spain the former player said he had hoped that, as a regular victim of Bennell’s, his coach would have his attention on his other boys. Bennell, he said, was “wet through with sweat” in bed and had taken 18 to 20 boys with him on the tour. “I was only in his room the first night – then other boys were selected.”

The trial continues.

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