A “CONTROLLING and manipulative” top athletics coach from Suffolk raped and sexually assaulted three teenage girls after “worming” his way into their families, it has been alleged.

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Stephen Benson, who was a coach with Ipswich Harriers and also taught PE at Copleston High School in Ipswich, allegedly groomed the girls for sex after convincing them and their parents they could be stars of the future, Ipswich Crown Court was told.

Benson, 50, who was described as “charming, intelligent, manipulative and controlling” persuaded his young protégée that “running was the only way to live” and gradually inveigled his way into their families, said Riel Karmy-Jones, prosecuting.

A jury heard that Benson became so involved in the girls’ lives that he would regularly have supper with them.

One of the alleged victims told police that before Benson became her trainer she went to the cinema and had sleepovers with friends but as he became more and more involved in her life all these had stopped. “He began to control her diet, her spare time and her life,” alleged Miss Karmy-Jones.

Benson, 50, of Pearsons Way, Copdock, has denied 11 offences of rape, six offences of indecent assault, two offences of sexual activity with a child and two of sexual assault.

Opening the case to the jury Miss Karmy-Jones 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 hadn’t complained to anyone about what was happening because they were either too embarrassed or didn’t think anyone would believe them.

Miss Karmy-Jones accused Benson of “worming” his way into their lives and “stealing the last part of their childhoods” by drawing them into sexual relationships with him.

She claimed the girls had submitted to his demands until they were old enough to know better and managed to break away. She alleged that Benson had “massive mood swings” and claimed he had told one of the girls he wouldn’t train her if she didn’t let him have sex with her.

She said the same alleged victim had described her relationship with Benson as “claustrophobic” and said he seemed to be obsessed with her.

The girl had also told police that she knew that Benson would “make her life hell” if she didn’t have sex with him.

The court heard that after his arrest Benson had denied the allegations and claimed that one of the alleged victims had a crush on him and wasn’t trustworthy.

He accepted having a sexual relationship with one of the other alleged victims but claimed it was in the later stages of his involvement with her and had been consensual.

He denied having any form of sexual relationship with the third alleged victim.

The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues.

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