Former football coach Barry Bennell, who was jailed for child sex offences, died on Saturday in HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire aged 69
Disgraced former football coach Barry Bennell has died in prison aged 69.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that Bennell passed away in HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire on Saturday. The ex-Crewe Alexandra coach and Manchester City scout, who had cancer, was serving a 34-year sentence for child sex offences.
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.”
He was convicted of more than 50 sexual offences against 12 boys at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018 and sentenced to 30 years in jail, having already been convicted of child abuse on three other occasions in the UK and once in the US. In 2020 he was sentenced to four more years for abusing two young boys.
More than 100 victims are believed to have come forward to allege they were abused by the paedophile, who was convicted of sexual abuse against 22 boys. When he was sentenced in February 2018, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, described Bennell as “the devil incarnate”. The court heard he was a “child molester on an industrial scale”.
Judge Goldstone said: “Your behaviour towards these boys in grooming and seducing them before subjecting them to, in some cases, the most serious, degrading and humiliating abuse was sheer evil.”
He said Bennell had appeared to his victims as a god but added: “In reality, you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence to satisfy your own perversion.”
Bennell was a youth coach at Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City in the 1980s and 1990s. He also had links to youth teams across Cheshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.
He used his position to abuse boys in his care, with many of his victims describing in court how they turned to alcohol in later life and struggled to trust people.
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.”
In a statement which was read to court, another victim 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”.
At the 2018 sentencing hearing, Bennell’s lawyer, Eleanor Laws QC, had argued that poor health “means his time in custody will be less comfortable and more difficult than it would be for someone without all these concerns.”
She said Bennell had suffered from cancer in the past and had operations to remove tumours from his tongue but was presently cancer free. He was also taking anti-anxiety medication.
Bennell was first jailed for four years in the US in 1994 after he abused a 13-year-old British boy at a football camp in Florida. He later returned to the UK, where Channel 4’s Dispatches documentary Soccer’s Foul Play in 1997 outed him as a serial abuser.
He received jail sentences in the UK and in the US in 1995, 1998 and 2015 before the breakthrough conviction in 2018 and a further one in 2020.