‘I have been quiet for 50 years’: standing up against sexual abuse at Celtic Boys Club

October 22, 2020 Comments Off on ‘I have been quiet for 50 years’: standing up against sexual abuse at Celtic Boys Club

‘I have been quiet for 50 years’: standing up against sexual abuse at Celtic Boys Club   Many of the perpetrators have been jailed for their crimes. Now a number of survivors and their families claim that officials at Celtic knew about the sexual abuse and did nothing   by Henry McDonald Tue 20 Oct 2020 01.00 EDT

….“We started going to Torbett’s flat, which was then a high rise on Pinkston Drive in Glasgow,” Woods recalled. “One night after training, two of us were helping out, encasing football medals in small plastic covers.   “He had asked us to put on our football shorts while we worked, and then invited us to lie down for a rest in his bed. I was 13 at the time. I remember lying in the middle of the bed and then Torbett getting into bed with us. He suddenly put his left hand down my shorts. I recall that I was terrified, but for some reason I could not get away. I was frozen there at that spot. There was a sick feeling in my stomach over what had just happened.” Woods says Torbett exercised tremendous power over the boys. He could decide their future as players or rejects – a position he cynically exploited. “I was frightened to say anything to Torbett because the dream of playing for Celtic was still there, even though here I was all of a sudden in this nightmare. He could put the fear of God into you. I went home that evening and never said a word to anyone about it. When I went along to the next training session, Torbett acted as if nothing had happened at all.”  

Celtic Boys Club was at the time regarded as the elite youth football side in Scotland, and a potential entry into life as a full-time professional for thousands of young players. But for more than two decades it was also a magnet for paedophiles. At least six men connected with the Celtic Boys Club have come under investigation for sexually assaulting boys between the late 1960s and the early 90s. Three of them have been convicted and have served prison sentences.   Now 21 of survivors are bringing a civil case against the club, which will be heard next year. The litigants include at least one prominent ex-Celtic player, and former professional players for other Scottish Premiership sides and Scotland’s national team. They are seeking damages from the parent club, which they claim had “corporate responsibility” for child grooming, assaults and rape by men with longstanding connections to Celtic Park.

The survivors and their families believe the leadership of the club knew about the abuse and did nothing about it. They also allege that Torbett was dismissed from the Boys Club in 1974 following accusations of abuse, but was allowed back into the club after four years, where he continued to work with young boys.   Celtic’s official response is that none of this abuse was linked in any way with the parent club, and that the Boys Club was a separate legal entity. Survivors say this denial has added to their trauma and claim this is typical of the club’s attitude: had the parent club listened to the voices of survivors from early on, the abusers’ reign would not have lasted so long.   …

In October 1996, Jim Torbett was arrested after a series of stories in the Daily Record, the Herald and BBC Scotland exposed his history of sexually abusing young players. He was jailed for two years in 1998 for abusing three young players, including Alan Brazil, at the Celtic Boys Club between 1967 and 1974. Following his release, Torbett was still a wealthy man. He moved to California, where a BBC investigations team tracked him down to ask him about other allegations of abuse. Within hours of that programme being broadcast, on 2 May 2017, US homeland security escorted Torbett to LAX airport. He was flown back to the UK and then arrested in Scotland. Andy Gray’s testimony was among those used to help convict Torbett of a second round of crimes against three boys. Jailing Torbett for six years in November 2018, the trial judge Lo rd Beckett told him: “You used the club as a front for child sexual abuse.”   Michelle Gray believes the parent club at Celtic Park bears responsibility for failing to prevent Torbett’s crimes. “I just want to confront the people who failed my brother. Because if Celtic had kept Torbett away from that club between 1986 to 1994, then Andy’s life and the lives of other boys would not have been ruined,” she said.  

….Torbett’s 2018 conviction triggered a string of further allegations against senior figures in the Celtic Boys Club. Among other abusers at the Boys Club was teacher Gerald King. In early 2019, King was given a three-year probation order for sexually abusing four boys and a girl at a Scottish school in the 80s. King was convicted of “lewd and libidinous practices”, which included taking a photo of naked boys in the shower, between August 1984 and April 1989. Last year, Celtic Boys Club’s former kit man, Jim McCafferty, 73, pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to sexual abuse involving 10 boys between 1972 and 1996. Four of his victims played for the Boys Club, and others played for youth teams he ran in North Lanarkshire. He was sentenced to six years and nine months in prison. At the time of his conviction, McCafferty was already serving a prison sentence for the sexual abuse of a boy in Belfast.   The web of abuse goes further. Police Scotland are now seeking the extradition of another man associated with the Boys Club who is living in east Asia. The football scout Bill Kelly started targeting hopeful young players at clubs across Scotland in the late 60s, and was eventually convicted of abusing 12 young boys in 1987.

One of Bill Kelly’s victims, Bill Storrie, was abused while playing for the West Lothian boys club Uphall All Saints in the late 60s. Storrie believes there needs to be an independent inquiry to investigate links between paedophiles working in Scotland during the 60s and 70s, and one of British sport’s most notorious child sexual abusers, the English football coach Barry Bennell.   In February 2018, Bennell, a former coach at Crewe Alexandra, was found guilty of 36 child sexual offences. He was jailed for 31 years for a total of 50 offences against 12 boys, and further convictions have followed, including some just this month, taking the total of known victims to 22. Given that he had worked at four different English clubs – Crewe, Manchester City, Stoke City and Leeds United – as well as having contacts with Scottish teams including Celtic Boys Club, the real number of his victims may still be far higher. Storrie is aware of a claim by one former youth player in Scotland that he was “trafficked” down to Bennell by the Celtic kit man Jim McCafferty….

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