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Ex-Northern Ireland player star Mark Williams abused by pervert coach Barry Bennell

By Cate McCurry

Published 30/11/2016

Mark Williams lines out for Northern Ireland in 2004
Mark Williams lines out for Northern Ireland in 2004

Former Northern Ireland footballer Mark Williams has claimed he was abused by Barry Bennell as a youth team player.

The ex-international yesterday spoke of the shocking sexual abuse he suffered after waiving his right to anonymity.

The former Premier League player is the latest footballer to reveal he was a victim of the serial paedophile.

Williams played 36 times for Northern Ireland between 1999 and 2005.

He said he was abused by Bennell at Crewe Alexandra, where the convicted sex offender was a youth team coach, and said he "cannot just sit back and watch my former team-mates suffer alone".

In a statement he said: "I have been watching events unfold during the last week and feel I cannot just sit back and watch my former team-mates suffer alone.

"I need to stand by their side.

"Their courage and bravery has inspired me to speak out about my own abuse at the hands of my former coach Barry Bennell.

"Barry Bennell abused me on two occasions - once at Pegasus, the Manchester City nursery team, when I was 11 years old, and then three years later when I had moved to Crewe Alexandra FC, where he was my coach as a schoolboy.

"My life has been affected irreversibly both personally and professionally and it has been soul-destroying to carry this burden for 30 years.

"I have felt chained down by fear of speaking out."

Williams called for stringent measures to be put in place to protect children in football.

Eight police forces are now looking into allegations of historical child sex abuse in the sport.

There have been 250 reports made to police and more than 50 calls were made to an NSPCC hotline set up for sexual abuse victims in football in the first few hours of opening.

More than 20 ex-players have spoken out about being abused, including former Newcastle United footballer Derek Bell.

Mr Bell told The Guardian newspaper that he was subjected to "horrendous" sexual abuse at his local boys' football club in the 1970s.

He said: "It was pure, unbelievable heartache.

"Thinking my mam and dad were next door and he was performing these sexual acts.

"He had groomed us for a couple of years and... he thought it was normal.

"Deep down in my mind I knew it wasn't normal, but I was so scared to speak and come out and say it wasn't right.

"It was just horrendous."

Police Scotland is the latest force to confirm it is looking into allegations following claims of sexual abuse by former players, as the FA begins an internal review.

A Police Scotland spokesman said the force was "working with both Operation Hydrant and the NSPCC to ensure there is a co-ordinated UK police response".

In the House of Lords, Baroness Chisholm said: "Since this has come out, 250 people have already contacted the police in England and Wales."

The national child abuse inquiry headed by Professor Alexis Jay is considering whether to investigate abuse in football as part of its overarching probe.

Belfast Telegraph

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