Serial paedophile Barry Bennell, who abused boys as a football coach, has died in prison aged 69, the Ministry of Justice has said.
Bennell died of cancer at the age of 69 on Saturday morning while serving combined prison sentences at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire for more than 50 offences against 22 boys while coaching them in the 1980s and 1990s.
A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Prisoner Barry Bennell died at HMP Littlehey on 16 September 2023. As with all deaths in custody, the prisons and probation ombudsman will investigate.”
Bennell’s first conviction was in Florida for an offence he carried out while on tour with a Staffordshire youth team and he served four years in prison for four counts of indecent assault on a 13-year-old boy.
He was then deported to stand trial for attacks carried out in the UK after a Channel 4 Dispatches investigation.
In June 1998 he pleaded guilty at Manchester crown court to 23 counts of sexual abuse of 15 boys aged between nine and 14, between 1978 and 1992. He was sentenced to nine years in prison.
In 2016, former professional footballer Andy Woodward told the Guardian that he had been a victim of Bennell, with other former players following suit.
Bennell, also known as Richard Jones, was further jailed for 30 years in 2018 after being convicted of 52 child sexual offences against 12 boys.
Sentencing him, the judge at Liverpool crown court said: “To those boys you appeared as a god … in reality you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence.”
He was ordered to serve an additional four years in 2020 after pleading guilty to other offences against two boys.
When he was sentenced at Liverpool crown court in 2018, the recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, said he “may well die in prison”. His final prison sentence, in 2020, was the fifth time he had been jailed.
At that hearing, the court was told he had a detached retina after being attacked in prison and was in remission from cancer.
The sex offender was a juniors coach at clubs such as Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City when he carried out attacks on boys who were promising young footballers.
Many later spoke about how deeply the abuse had affected them, in some cases ruining their careers.
Earlier this year, a court found Manchester City football club could not be held responsible for the attacks carried out while he worked there.
Mr Justice Johnson accepted the accounts of the men who he attacked when they were boys but, in a written judgment published in January, the judge said that although there was a “good explanation” for the delay in the claims against City, they were brought too late for there to be a fair trial of the club.
He said even if the claims were not time-barred, the fact that Bennell was a scout for City, coached their feeder teams and helped to organise trial games did not make the club vicariously liable for his abuse, as the eight men who brought the case had argued.
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