Manchester police launch soccer child abuse inquiry

Accused coach Barry Bennell remains in hospital after ‘fear for welfare’ incident

More English football players talk about their sexual abuse experiences as young boys, with one accusing clubs of covering up a paedophile ring. Video: BBC/Reuters

 

England’s third largest police force has launched an inquiry into allegations of historical child sex abuse in youth soccer, after recent media reports prompted people to come forward.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) has joined the Metropolitan Police and the Football Association (FA) in investigating the growing scandal, which was sparked when an ex-player spoke out about the abuse he suffered at the hands of convicted paedophile Barry Bennell.

It comes after it emerged that Bennell, a former Crewe Alexandra coach, was treated by paramedics and taken to hospital on Friday night after being found unconscious, in what police called a “fear for welfare” incident.

Hampshire, Cheshire and Northumbria police forces are also investigating reports received since former Crewe, Bury and Sheffield United player Andy Woodward became the first to speak out this month about abuse he suffered at the hands of Bennell.

The FA is facing mounting pressure to expand the scope of its inquiry into abuse.

English soccer’s governing body has appointed senior lawyer Kate Gallafent to assist with its review into historical child sex abuse allegations, starting in the 1970s.

As many as seven professional clubs are embroiled in the growing scandal, with more than 20 former players alleging they were victims, Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chief executive Gordon Taylor has said.

GMP urged more victims to come forward and said complaints would be treated seriously.

‘Fear for welfare incident’

Bennell, who was given a nine-year jail term in 1998 after being convicted of a string of sex offences against boys, remains in hospital after being found unconscious.

A Thames Valley Police statement said: “Police officers attended an address in Knebworth Park, Stevenage, just before 11pm on Friday, November 25th, in connection with a fear for welfare incident.

“A 62-year-old man was located and was taken to hospital in order to receive medical treatment, where he remains.

“At this stage of inquiries, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

A spokesman for East of England Ambulance Service said: “We received a call on Friday at 10.50pm to reports of an unconscious man on Knebworth Park in Stevenage to which we sent an ambulance crew.

“The crew arrived within eight minutes to treat the man . . . before taking him to Lister Hospital for further care.”

Bennell, who worked for Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke and junior teams in northwest England and the midlands, abused boys from the 1970s onwards.

He was jailed for four years for raping a British boy on a 1994 soccer tour of Florida, and was given a nine-year sentence for 23 offences against six boys in England in 1998.

He was jailed for a third time in 2015 after admitting abusing a boy at a 1980 soccer camp in Macclesfield.

Those making allegations against him include former Manchester City star David White and youth player Jason Dunford, plus ex-Crewe player Steve Walters and Chris Unsworth.

Operation Hydrant, which oversees the investigation of allegations of historical child sex abuse within institutions or by people of public prominence, is trying to work out the scale of the alleged abuse.

It has been in touch with all police forces in England and Wales, asking them to forward details of allegations they have received following the recent publicity.

PA