Victim of paedophile football coach from Milton Keynes sues former owners of Butlins holiday camp where he claims he was groomed by pervert

'I would never have come into contact with him had he not been working at Butlins' says victim

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:58 pm

A victim of a paedophile football coach from MK is taking legal action against the previous owners of a Butlins holiday park where he claimed he was groomed by the pervert more than 40 years ago.

David Lean was just 11 when he visited the Butlins resort in Pwllheli, north-west Wales, in 1979.

Former Crewe Alexandra coach Barry Bennell was working there, helping to entertain youngsters with a daily soccer school.

Bennell in his younger days
Bennell in his younger days

Mr Lean claims Bennell, who has been living under an assumed name in MK, took his home address so he could keep in contact and check on his football progress.

The coach later invited the boy to a football course in Macclesfield and stay at his house – where he sexually abused him.

Mr Lean told the South Wales Argus: “I would never have come into contact with Bennell had he not been working at Butlin’s – it’s as simple as that. In those days the Redcoats and staff were really looked up to there – and Bennell was no different. He was seen to be trustworthy and he used that to start grooming me."

Bennell, now 67, is serving a 34-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2018 of 50 counts of child abuse. Mr Lean was one of 12 boys aged eight to 15 who were abused between 1979 and 1991.

Police raiding Bennell's MK home in 2016

The court heard he preyed upon young boys who dreamed of becoming footballers in his role as a talent scout for players to play in the professional clubs.

If the boys didn’t comply with his demands, he told them that their football careers would suffer.

The boys spoke out when they became adults and a full investigation into Bennell began. By then the former coach was living quietly in Hodge Lea in MK under the name of Richard Jones.

In November 2016, police raided his home, bringing out computers and other equipment. They described Bennell as an “ill looking” man who called himself a "software specialist”.

Helping several of his victims seek justice was law firm Slater and Gordon, whose head of abuse law Kim Harrison is pursuing now pursuing Mr Lean's the civil case against the former Butlins owners.

She is claiming Butlins was vicariously liable for the sexual abuse as it employed Bennell during the time Mr Lean was groomed and targeted by him.

She said: “We have now issued formal proceedings in the High Court and will take this case through the necessary channels in order to in some way compensate my client for the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bennell as a young and vulnerable child.

“The impact of this abuse on my client is hard to put into words, but his bravery in first coming forward to the police and continuing to fight for justice should be commended.”

At the time Bennell worked there, Butlin’s was owned by the Rank Group. They sold the holiday park in 2011. The legal action is being taken against Hard Rock Cafe (Edinburgh) Limited, which was known as Butlins Limited until it was renamed in 2000.

Kim Harrison said: "It was incredibly difficult for the men who were abused as children to share their stories so that others might find the same courage to step forward and speak about the abuse they'd suffered. For some, it was the first time they’d spoken about their experiences to their own families."

Former professional footballer, Andy Woodward, first reported Bennell's abuse in 2016 when he was 43 years old. He was just aged 11 years' old when abused by Bennell. Andy's bravery in coming forward empowered hundreds more victims to come forward and as a result, there were multiple police investigations and convictions. The Football Association also set up the Sheldon inquiry.

The inquiry's independent report, carried out by Clive Sheldon, was recently completed and found the FA culpable of "institutional failure" at its delay in introducing safeguarding for children after 1995 when Barry Bennell and some high-profile abusers in other sports had already been prosecuted and convicted.

Kim said: "In cases such as these, that have come to light in recent years, there were many children being abused in institutions where it's likely adults knew or suspected abuse was happening but didn’t speak out and report their suspicions and concerns. This needs to change.  There's currently no law that suspicions of abuse need to be reported to the police or social services.  This puts children at risk."

Slater and Gordon have long argued for there to be a mandatory reporting law in place for anyone who knows about any abuse taking place to be legally obligated to report it so that it can be properly investigated sooner rather than later.

Had such mandatory reporting legislation been in place and applied to sports clubs in the 80s and 90s, Bennell may have been stopped sooner, they say.