As disgraced former football coach Barry Bennell is convicted - again - of abusing young players, one of his former victims has lashed out at authorities for not acting sooner.
It is just over five years since former Preston North End player David Lean walked into a police station to reveal had been abused by Barry Bennell.
Having made a vow to himself he would never reveal the abuse during his mother’s lifetime as it would break her heart, distraught David waited until five days after her funeral. It propelled him into a frustrating and devastating journey as he sought justice for his abuser.
David, 50, from Lytham, was unable to speak fully about the details until the current proceedings against Bennell, now 64, concluded, but today he reveals the shocking background, revealing he warned the CPS and police there were likely to be hundreds of boys he had abused.
The former Preston North End reserve footballer, who was attacked while staying at the disgraced coach’s home for a football course when he was 12, said he felt at first his fears had been ignored – at a grave cost.
He believes many other children could have been saved from being abused if the authorities had acted on his concerns in 2013.
Minutes from a meeting between Mr Lean and the CPS, following their initial decision not to charge Bennell with offences against him, contains the line: “Open your eyes, there must be hundreds and hundreds out there.”
The damning notes raise concerns about two footballers who committed suicide – who had both been coached by Bennell.
He said: “I was determined to get this out there – I knew there would be loads more.”
It took the determined dad-of-two a two and a half year battle and an appeal to the Child Sexual Abuse Panel to get the CPS to bring charges against Bennell for the offences against him.
He said: “ I had carried this round with me for more than 30 years.
“I did not want to report it until my mum has passed away because it would have destroyed her. I reported it five days after her funeral.
“I was initially told it was not in the public interest to charge him – it was heartbreaking.
“If action had been taken when I raised these concerns, perhaps it could have saved other people being abused in a sporting environment.
“How many more people have become victims in the last three years? Would they have had the confidence to come forward if they had seen Bennell dealt with in 2013?”
David, who now works for a gym in Fylde, was just 11 when he met Bennell in 1979 on a family trip to a holiday camp at Pwllheli, north Wales, where Bennell ran a football course.
David says as a youngster he was amazed by the coach, who immediately suggested the pair write to each other.
The grooming went on for seven months before he agreed to attend a coaching course in Macclesfield, staying two nights at Bennell’s house, when he was abused.
He never spoke of his ordeal, thinking he would never see him again but he arrived home from school the following month to find him talking to his mother. Oblivious to what had gone on, his mum told him to show Bennell his football trophies in his bedroom, where Bennell told him: “ Don’t worry, I won’t tell your mum what you did to me.”
Bennell was first jailed in the United States in 1994 for assaulting a British boy on a football tour. Four years later he was jailed for nine years in the UK for sexually assaulting six boys, including former Chorley police officer Andy Woodward.
When David came forward in 2013, the CPS told him it was unlikely his evidence would make a difference even if he had come forward in 1998, as he was abused in the period covered by the UK proceedings. But the decision was overturned when he appealed to the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel in 2013, which ordered charges to be laid.
The day before Bennell was due to go on trial in April 2015, he admitted two indecent assaults and two counts of enticing a boy to commit gross indecency and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment in 2015.
Andy Woodward and David took a decision to waive their anonymity and go public in 2016. When they did, it attracted more than 200 calls to police about Bennell, and hundreds more about abuse in a sports environment, and he was charged a few days later.
While the case has been going on David has devoted his spare time to campaigning to raises awareness of child abuse and speaking at events.
He said: “I didn’t have the chance to say everything I needed to at the time I went public because just a few days later new proceedings were launched.
“The main survivor to come forward in this case was on the back of my story. We’ve met a couple of times. He’s a good guy but he struggles with his life.
“What happened to me is on a much smaller scale than what came out in this case – what I experienced was enough, so the psychological aspect they’ve experienced, well, I don’t know how you can imagine it.
“I have been watching the live trial updates while sat at my desk at work - some of the articles were about his grooming. The first time I saw those words I nearly vomited, because it’s exactly what happened to me too. It’s been really difficult.
“Part of me doesn’t want to read it but another wants to know.
“I told them about this in 2013 – it could have all been done and dusted if it had been dealt with properly.
“The authorities have some difficult questions to answer.
“Today’s case will give me closure – all I’ve ever wanted to do was talk and offload this a little bit, and that’s now happening.
“ It sounds terrible but it’s what I wanted – I wanted to ruin his life because he’s ruined part of mine.”