A SUFFOLK running coach allegedly “showered” a teenage girl he is accused of raping with gifts, a court has heard.

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Giving evidence at the trial of Ipswich Harriers coach Stephen Benson the alleged victim claimed he had bought her flowers, chocolates and a jewellery box.

She accused Benson of “controlling” her life and denied a suggestion from defence counsel Naomi Perry that he had bought chocolates and flowers for other members of her family and not just for her.

The alleged victim, who claims Benson, of Pearsons Way, Copdock, raped and sexually assaulted her between the ages of 15 and 18, told the court that after some training sessions he would stay and have supper with her family and had started going to her room to chat with her about training and races.

She said it was during these visits to her room that he would give her gifts and had also forced her to perform sex acts on him.

The alleged victim also claimed that when she was 14 Benson had brought grapes along to a training session and had got her and another girl to pass the grapes to him with their mouths.

“He made us repeatedly put grapes into our mouths and to feed them into his mouth,” she told the court.

She said she had thought it was an inappropriate thing to do but said she had done it because Benson told her to do it. “I did as I was told,” she added.

Cross-examined by Mrs Perry the alleged victim accepted she had sent Benson a card in which she described him as “the most important person in my life” and had put kisses on it.

She denied a suggestion from Mrs Perry that she wouldn’t have sent a card like that to Benson if the allegations she had made against him were true. “He was my coach and I put kisses on all my cards,” she said.

Benson, 50, who taught PE at Copleston High School in Ipswich as well as being a coach with Ipswich Harriers, has denied 11 offences of rape, six offences of indecent assault, two offences of sexual activity with a child and two offences of sexual assault.

Riel Karmy-Jones, prosecuting, has claimed that over a period of 20 years from the 1980s, Benson abused his position and groomed a series of girls for his “own benefit and sexual gratification”.

The girls were in their mid-teens when the alleged abuse started and they had not complained to anyone about what was happening because they were either too embarrassed or didn’t think anyone would believe them, Miss Karmy-Jones said.

The court heard that after his arrest Benson denied the allegations. The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues today.

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