Barry Bennell’s victims tell court of heartbreak and shattered dreams
One victim considered suicide, Liverpool Crown Court was told.
Victims of paedophile football coach Barry Bennell have told of the impact of his abuse as they faced him in court.
Four of the 64-year-old’s victims read statements at Liverpool Crown Court as he faced sentencing for 50 child sex offences, while statements from three other victims were read by prosecutor Nicholas Johnson QC.
Some victims described how they had turned to alcohol in later life and struggled to trust people.
One man said he began using drugs as a “means of escape”.
Bennell looked at the floor as the statements were read out in a courtroom which was filled with victims and their families, as well as members of the press and seven members of the jury which convicted him.
One victim said: “Not a day goes by without thinking about the abuse I suffered. I loved football and like most boys it was my dream to play professionally.
“My dreams were shattered and I often think what could have been.”
He added: “I often thought of ending my own life but I didn’t, knowing the shame it would bring on my family.”
He described the moment he told his parents about the abuse and said: “My dad replied ‘sorry, for not being a good dad’.
“This was heartbreaking to hear him say.”
He added: “I am determined to claim back control of my life and live it to its fullest.”
In a statement which was read to court, victim Chris Unsworth said: “Barry Bennell abused me, groomed me, manipulated me and destroyed all my childhood and dreams of becoming a professional footballer.”
He said the guilt he felt following his abuse had been an “extremely heavy weight to bear”.
He added: “Despite trying to bury what happened to me all those years ago this continues affect me now.”
He said he had chosen not to have children because he would not be able to protect them against “predatory people like Bennell”.
Victim Gary Cliffe, who approached Bennell in the dock to ask “why?” after reading his statement, said: “I have had over 30 years to consider, reflect and make sense of what he did to me, yet I still find it hard to effectively put into words the hell and mental suffering I have endured during this period of time.”
He added: “I look back on my childhood with regret and deep sadness.”
Another victim told the court: “That monster decided it was fun for him to use me as a sex toy, someone he could get his kicks from.”