Footballer was first person sex abuse survivor and team-mate confided in
Ex-footballer Paul Ferris has spoken about giving evidence to help put a former colleague at Newcastle United, who was exposed as a paedophile, behind bars.
George Ormond, who was a youth team coach, was jailed in 2018 for 20 years after being convicted at Newcastle Crown Court of sex abuse offences between 1973 and 1998.
Ormond was also jailed for six years in 2002 after being found guilty of abusing seven boys under 16 between 1975 and 1999.
Lisburn-born Paul (56) played 14 times for Newcastle United before returning to the club in 1993 as a physio under then boss Kevin Keegan.
He stayed there until 2006 before pursuing a career as a barrister, but returned to the club in April 2009 as part of pal Alan Shearer’s management team.
Paul said: “I felt a shudder at just how close I may have come to being one of the victims seeking justice that day for the abhorrent sexual abuse they had suffered at the evil hands of the defendant, George Ormond.
“Instead, I was in the more fortunate position of being called as a prosecution witness. My evidence would hopefully help get justice for some of his innocent victims.
“It might bring some closure for one or two of the brave 18 men who’d had the courage to come forward and give evidence of their abuse as boys and their subsequent torment as adults.
“They’d all suffered at the hands of a man I’d first encountered when I was an impressionable, shy 16-year-old.
“I’d met Ormond within days of my arrival at Newcastle United from my home in Northern Ireland in the autumn of 1981.
“He was also someone I would go on to work alongside, in the mid-1990s, when I was employed at the club as a physiotherapist.”
Paul said he was called to assist the case because his friend Derek Bell, who waived his right to anonymity, had confided in him about evil Ormond’s acts.
He continued: “I was in court because of a conversation with an old friend that at the time had shaken me to the core.
“It had also led to me scratching around, out of my depth, trying to do the right thing.
“Sometime in early 1997, Derek Bell rang me and asked if I’d meet with him for a drink. The call itself was a surprise because we had lost touch with each other over the years.
“We had once been great friends. Derek and his family had been a vital lifeline for me when I was a desperately homesick Irish boy, trying to find my way in my new world of professional football, my new city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and my new country of residence, England.”
Paul and Derek made their Newcastle United debuts on the same day but neither of their playing careers took off and the pair drifted apart for some time — until that phone call in 1997 out of the blue.
Dad-of-three Paul said: “When I met him in my local pub a few days later, I barely recognised the man before me.
“His eyes now sat sunken in deep sockets. He smiled but his eyes didn’t join in. He glanced at me but quickly averted his gaze to the floor.
“As I brought our drinks to the small table in the middle of the near-deserted village pub, it was clear all was not well with him.”
Derek warned Paul he had to “get George out of the club” before plucking up the courage to tell him about his abuse.
Paul said: “He leaned in again. ‘What I’m about to tell you, I haven’t told another soul. You need to promise it stays between us. OK?’ He had hold of my arm again. He was squeezing down hard.
“I nodded and he began to speak. His voice was quiet and his heightened emotional state evident. ‘George abused me. He abused me from when I was 12 years old at Montague (boys’ football club). Think of the worst sexual abuse you can imagine. He did that to me.
“‘Over many years. The abuse, and keeping it hidden from the world have destroyed my life. I was ashamed to tell anyone in case they thought it was somehow my fault.
“‘But now I know that I was groomed. From a very young age. He infiltrated my family and ingratiated himself with my parents to such an extent that it became impossible for me to find a way out.
“‘It started at the boys’ club, then in car parks on the way home from training. Then in my home while my parents slept in the next room. I’ve carried the secret my whole life. It’s cost me my marriage, my home and my family. I’ve been in institutions, where I have been sectioned, and I’ve tried to kill myself more than once.
“‘He’s a f***ing monster. You have to get him out of the football club in case he is doing the same thing to someone else right now.’
“He was still squeezing my arm when he’d finished talking. We sat again in silence. I tried to digest the magnitude of what he was telling me.
“I felt my stomach flip and my hands begin to moisten. I didn’t for one minute doubt what Derek had just told me was the truth.
“I looked at him, crushed, and slumped in his chair. His eyes filled with tears before he used his finger and thumb to grind them away.
“My mind raced with a thousand disconnected thoughts. Poor Derek. What a burden to have carried. What evil to have endured as a boy.
“This monster is still working at Newcastle United. How many other boys has he abused before and after Derek? How close had I come, as a 16-year-old, to being a victim myself?
“I’d walked straight into the lion’s den. What’s the next step? We must report it to the police. I turned to Derek. His hands were failing in their job of stemming the flow from his eyes.”
Paul said that Derek was so upset he invited him back to his house where they could continue their conversation in private.
He continued: “He made me promise again not to tell anyone what he was divulging. He only wanted Ormond out of the football club.
“That night I bore witness to the most gut-wrenching testimony I’ve ever heard from a fellow human being. The sordid detail of the evil depravity a paedophile had inflicted mercilessly on a defenceless child.
“That child now sat sobbing in my living room as a hollowed-out shell of a man. The Derek I had known was gone. He no longer existed.
“The new Derek in front of me was still in the midst of his ordeal. Still in the clutches of his tormentor. The man who sat in front of me was utterly changed from the boy I had met in 1981.”
Most of Paul’s latest book, The Magic in the Tin, centres on being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2016, but he also dedicates two chapters to Ormond’s court case which he had to deal with during his recovery.
In it he revealed how he felt he had to alert fellow members of staff about Derek’s claims — despite Derek asking him not to.
He explained: “I felt a confusing mixture of emotions. Disgust and anger that this horror had destroyed him.
“Concern about what could actually be done if he wasn’t willing to move forward and tell the police of the crimes committed against him.
“I replayed Derek’s revelations in my head. I thought about the promises I had made not to divulge our conversation to anyone. I thought long and hard about it.
“Then I came to the conclusion that I needed to tell someone about the allegations against George Ormond. There was an alleged paedophile working with boys at Newcastle United Football Club.
“I resolved to break Derek’s trust. Some promises were made to be broken.”
After discovering that Ormond was still working as a “masseur/gopher with the youth team” he shared his concerns with trusted colleagues, and spoke to a senior police officer who was on duty at a game.
But after he made enquiries and found that Ormond was not on any database, he said there was nothing he could do if Derek was not willing to come forward and make an official complaint.
Paul said he then went to other senior members of staff with his concerns who “agreed before I left the room that George Ormond had to be removed from the club”.
He said that after Ormond had left St James’ Park, he “never heard of him again, until 2001, when Derek Bell finally found the courage to tell the police of his ordeal”.
He added: “Under a promise of anonymity, he bravely faced his tormentor in court. In 2002, Ormond was found guilty of abusing Derek and six other boys. He was sentenced to six years in prison.
“Then in 2016, amid a flurry of allegations from several men who had been abused at various professional clubs, Derek Bell shared his ordeal with the Press. It opened the floodgates.
“Several men came forward to claim that Ormond had abused them when they were boys at Montague Boys’ Club and at Newcastle United.
“In July 2018, George Ormond was found guilty of committing 36 counts of sexual abuse, against 18 victims over a 24-year period, between 1973 and 1997.
“I had indeed walked into the lion’s den in 1981. I was lucky. I was not one of his victims. It was clear that I was, after all, dealing with a monster in 1997, when Derek Bell had confided in me and I’d reported his sickening allegations to the police.
“Ormond was sentenced to 20 years for his crimes. He deserves every minute of it. Derek Bell, and the others, got a life sentence. They don’t deserve a second of it.”
The Magic in the Tin by Paul Ferris is on sale now