Ipswich: Benson exerted Svengali-like hold over abuse victim

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court after a pre-trial hearing

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court after a pre-trial hearing - Credit: Andrew Partridge

EXERTING a Svengali-like hold over his athletic protégés Stephen Benson began to coach his first victim before she had reached her teens.

She recalled how he went on to groom her, and manipulate not only her, but also her family as he paved the way for abuse.

Benson had suggested she join Ipswich Harriers and for a time she trained, and competed in a few competitions as he began to take more interest in her athletics ability.

She said: “He started given me more training. It would just be me, another girl and him. I didn’t see anything strange in that.”

However, subsequently things took a more sinister turn and Benson’s teenage protégé started to become uneasy after an incident with the other girl.

“We had just finished our training session at Northgate. He had some grapes on him. We started eating them – all three of us. Then he started making some suggestion about feeding them to each other with our mouths.

“I didn’t like doing it, but he told us what to do and you did it. He was quite controlling.”

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Benson’s victim said the next incident she clearly recalled was Benson saying he had spoken to her parents and that they had given him permission to have a relationship with her.

She said: “That’s when I thought ‘oh, oh’. I was completely controlled by him. I was completely brainwashed.

“He controlled pretty much every aspect of what I did without me realising it.

“My mum just thought he was wonderful.

“He started coming round mine. He would drop me off sometimes. Then he would stay a little while. Then he stayed for tea. He came around at weekends for lunch.

“I felt uneasy about it really, but I was still quite young and probably a bit more immature than I thought I was.”

The woman, who has anonymity as a sex assault victim, said when their relationship began she was in her mid teens.

“When I was about 16 or 17 I kind of realised what was happening was not happening to other people. I wasn’t a very confident person so it took me pretty much two years to build up the courage to tell him to stop. I wanted to when I was younger, but wasn’t strong enough emotionally.”

The crunch came when she had gone out to a pub with friends and returned home drunk.

She said: “I came home a bit worse for wear and took myself to bed. Someone must have contacted him.

“The next thing I knew he was in the room.

“My mum was in the room and I told him I had had enough. The next day he threatened to kill himself and was in tears on the phone. I carried on training. It was awkward and he did treat me differently.

“I put up with it for a little longer until I left and then I didn’t have contact with him again.”