A police detective who was abused by paedophile football coach Barry Bennell says he is ‘satisfied’ that the pervert is dead – but admits that his abuser’s death has not brought him any closure.
Gary Cliffe, now a detective constable with Staffordshire Police, says that Bennell’s death is ‘the end of a chapter’ in his life after the monster died on Saturday at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire.
The sexual predator, who had cancer, was a youth coach for Crewe Alexandra, Manchester City and Stoke City football clubs during the 1980s and 1990s – and was convicted of dozens of sexual offences against more than 20 boys in 2018.
DC Cliffe, who was abused by Bennell whilst being coached at Man City, told MailOnline that the news has ‘stirred up a lot of emotions’ but says that nothing can undo the damage done to his life at such a young age.
He had signed for the prestigious team at 14 – and says he still thinks about what could have been if he had not left the sport after years of abuse.
Paedophile football coach Barry Bennell (pictured) has died in custody aged 69
Gary Cliffe – now a detective constable with Staffordshire Police – says the monster’s death marks the ‘end of a chapter’ in his life, but says it has not brought him closure
HMP Littlehey, where Barry Bennell spent his final years before dying on Saturday. The paedophile had cancer and had received a number of treatments
DC Cliffe, who waived his legal right to lifetime anonymity as a survivor of sexual offences, told MailOnline: ‘He’s died where he needs to be – locked up, behind bars.
‘It stirs up a lot of emotions and upset and pain, thinking of all the lads who didn’t get justice or didn’t come forward – hundreds of them.
‘I’ve got mixed emotions – it’s the end of a chapter. I don’t feel I’ve got any closure, as people say, no closure.
‘The damage was done as a child growing up. I can’t turn back the clock and make it go away. Many times, I think: of all the coaches in the world, why him?
‘I do very often think about what could have been. All the coaches in the world, and I end up with him.
‘It’s a funny one – I don’t find satisfaction in people dying but I suppose, yes, I am satisfied he’s gone now and it’s the end of that chapter.
‘He’s not breathing the same air as us now. He died in prison. He’s been beat.’
Bennell, then 64, was convicted of dozens of sexual offences at Liverpool Crown Court in 2018 after abusing boys at prominent football clubs.
As he sentenced him to 34 years behind bars, the judge called the paedophile he was ‘the devil incarnate’, saying: ‘To those boys you appeared as a god… in reality you were the devil incarnate. You stole their childhoods and their innocence.’
DC Cliffe added: ‘I’m grateful that I made an official complaint, which meant that I went to court, got eight convictions against him that helped put him behind bars, where he needed to be…he’s now died in prison.
‘It’s been a very long, laborious and vile process but it is very satisfying if you get those convictions in your name after all that process.
‘If anything good comes out of this whole sorry saga of us, we’ve hopefully raised the profile of saying that it’s okay to speak up, and that the shame and embarrassment you go through…it’s all irrational. I’ve got nothing but support.’
DC Cliffe (second from left) and other survivors of abuse speaking outside Liverpool Crown Court after Barry Bennell was found guilty of sexual abuse
Barry Bennell pictured in 2012. The paedophile was jailed for 30 years after being convicted of 52 child sexual offences against 12 boys
Bennell was among a number of youth football coaches implicated in a child abuse scandal that led to sweeping child protection reforms within the game. It became the subject of a BBC One documentary, Football Darkest Secret.
An inquiry conducted by Clive Sheldon KC led to the publication of a 700 page report that concluded that there had been at least 240 suspects and 692 survivors of child sex abuse between 1970 and 2005.
The FA, the report concluded, ‘could and should have done more to keep children safe’.
DC Cliffe, who now works in adult safeguarding and protection, added: ‘I truly believe we blew the roof off of the secret – the worst kept secret in football – and the FA had to stand up and be counted, and to be fair, they did.
‘It’s blown myths away and helped lads come forward. It’s hard for us men, if you were playing football at that time.
‘Anyone should reach out if they want to talk.’
Bennell, a former Manchester City scout, abused boys he coached in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘Prisoner Barry Bennell died at HMP Littlehey on September 16.
‘As with all deaths in custody, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will investigate.’
Bennell, also known as Richard Jones, was jailed for 30 years in 2018 after being convicted of 52 child sexual offences against 12 boys.
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, 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.
As he was convicted in 2018, DC Cliffe read out his victim personal statement from the witness box and then approached the glass dock, asking calmly: ‘Barry. Barry. Why?’ He was then escorted back to his seat by a member of court staff.
Barry Bennell in an early TV interview with the BBC. He began coaching at the age of 18 before training youth sides for a number of prolific football teams
A court sketch shows Gary Cliffe approaching Barry Bennell as he sits in the dock during the 2018 trial. He asked the paedophile: ‘Barry. Barry. Why?’ before being escorted to his seat
Bennell was first arrested in while on a ten-week tour of the United States when coaching a Staffordshire youth team.
He was then convicted a year later in Florida of four counts of indecent assault on a 13-year-old boy and sentenced to four years in jail. His victim was also abused by Bennell in Britain, which then lead to a domestic investigation.
He was exposed in a January 1997 episode of Channel 4‘s Dispatches when a former youth player told the Soccer’s Foul Play programme he was sexually abused by Bennell.
In September that year, the US authorities deported the sex offender to the UK where he was charged with more sexual offences. In June 1998 he then pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to 23 counts of sexual abuse relating to 15 complainants, aged from nine to 14, between 1978 and 1992. He was sentenced to nine years behind bars.
In May 2015 Bennell pleaded guilty at the same court on the first day of his scheduled trial where he was accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1980. He was jailed for two years.
The court heard the victim was abused at Bennell’s living quarters at Taxal Edge while staying with him as he took part in coaching sessions in Macclesfield.
He was convicted in February 2018 of 43 counts of child sexual abuse against 11 victims.
The Offside Trust, set up by survivors of child sexual abuse in sport, including some ex-footballers abused by Bennell, said it was aware of news of his death.
A spokesman said: ‘We are thinking of all the brave survivors, those who felt they could speak out, and those who still cannot.
‘We at the Offside Trust understand the issues this may trigger for survivors and are here for everyone should they need us. Please don’t suffer in silence.’
Barry Bennell: A timeline of abuse
- Early 1970: Bennell begins his coaching career aged about 18 at renowned London-based junior club Senrab FC, he later tells police.
- Mid to late 1970s: He coaches at Butlin’s holiday camp in Pwllheli, North Wales, and also begins working with Manchester youth team Whitehill FC, he tells detectives.
- November 1979 to July 1981: He is employed as a resident social worker at the now closed Taxal Edge children’s home in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire.
- 1982 to 1985: He coaches youth teams in Derbyshire, which provided several youth recruits for Manchester City.
- 1985 to 1992: Bennell is employed by or on behalf of Crewe Alexandra, apart from a spell coaching in Georgia, in the US, in 1989 and 1990.
- 1990: He marries Linda Woodward, sister of one of his abuse victims, Andy Woodward. The couple go on to have two children.
- 1992 to 1994: Bennell is employed by or on behalf of Stoke City.
- 1994: He is arrested while on a 10-week tour of the US when coaching a Staffordshire youth team.
- 1995: He is convicted in Florida of four counts of indecent assault on a young boy and sentenced to four years in prison.
- January 1997: Bennell is featured in the Channel 4 documentary series Dispatches. Former youth player Ian Ackley waives his anonymity and tells the Soccer’s Foul Play programme he was sexually abused by Bennell.
- September 1997: US authorities deport Bennell to the UK at the conclusion of his sentence, and on his arrival he is charged with sexual offences relating to a number of complainants.
- June 1998: He pleads guilty at Chester Crown Court on the first day of his scheduled trial to 23 counts of sexual abuse relating to 15 complainants, aged from nine to 14, between 1978 and 1992. Victims include Mr Ackley and Mr Woodward. Twenty-two alleged offences are left to lie on file. He is sentenced to nine years in prison.
- May 2015: Bennell pleads guilty at the same court on the first day of his scheduled trial to sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy in 1980. He is jailed for two years.
- November 2016: Mr Woodward waives his anonymity to give media interviews about the abuse.
- February 2018: Bennell is sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of 50 child sexual offences against 12 boys between 1979 and 1991. It is disclosed he may have more than 100 victims, as an additional 86 complainants have come forward to say they too were abused by him. Recorder of Liverpool Judge Clement Goldstone QC calls him “the devil incarnate” and says he may well die in prison. –
- October 2020: The former coach is sentenced to serve an additional four years after pleading guilty to three counts of buggery and six counts of indecent assault against two boys between 1979 and 1988.
- September 16, 2023: Bennell dies at HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire.