Ipswich: Running coach took over family’s lives, court told

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court.

Stephen Benson leaving Ipswich Crown Court. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

THE mother of a woman who has claimed she was raped by Ipswich Harriers running coach Stephen Benson has told court he “took over their lives.”

Giving evidence on the fourth day of Benson’s trial at Ipswich Crown Court the witness said it got to the stage that she, her husband and daughter had “no life whatsoever” outside running and had started ignoring Benson’s telephone calls and pretending they were out if he called round.

The woman said Benson had been “very affectionate” towards her daughter but as far as she was concerned their relationship was that of coach and runner.

She denied a suggestion from defence counsel Naomi Perry that her daughter had gone to a social engagement with Benson as his girlfriend. “No. She went as his runner and not his girlfriend,” said the woman.

She recalled an incident when Benson had taken her daughter to a beach for a training run but they had been gone all day. “I was angry when he came back with her,” she said.

She told the court there had come a time when her daughter had changed and hadn’t wanted anything to do with Benson. “Her running deteriorated quite badly and one minute she would be up and the next minute she would be down.”

She said her daughter had not told her at the time about the allegations she had made against Benson and they had not discussed the matter since.

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Benson, 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.

She 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.

The court heard that after his arrest Benson denied the allegations.

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

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