April 21 2014 Latest news:
by Colin Adwent, crime correspondent
Saturday, March 30, 2013
ONE former Copleston pupil today claimed rumours about rapist teacher Stephen Benson’s behaviour towards a female student were dismissed by some staff at the school.
YOUNG athletes and their parents placed their trust and dreams in Stephen Benson only for them to be betrayed in the most heinous way.
Today, after spending his first night in a prison cell, the former Ipswich Harriers coach and PE teacher faces the prospect of many more years behind bars.
Yesterday, after being found guilty of four further charges of rape against a third teenage athlete, his predatory behaviour was described as a “gross betrayal of trust”.
In total Benson, of Pearsons Way, Copdock, was convicted of 19 sex assaults on three girls aged between 15 and 18, including nine rape charges, six indecent assaults, two sex assaults and two counts of sexual activity with a child.
The 50-year-old former Copleston High School teacher was found not guilty of two rape charges. He had denied all the charges.
Judge David Goodin remanded Benson in custody until his sentencing, which will take place at Ipswich Crown Court during the week commencing April 29.
The convictions relate to assaults which took place over a period of 20 years.
After the jury of seven men and five women brought in their final verdicts, Senior Crown Prosecutor for CPS East of England, Andrea Reynolds said: “This was a gross betrayal of trust by a man who used his position as a sports coach with Ipswich Harriers Athletics Club to groom three young girls so he could rape two of them and sexually assault all three.
“Parents who trusted their daughters to him were manipulated by Benson into thinking he had the girls’ best interests at heart.
“They believed he would make the girls successful athletes – when in fact he had other motives in mind.
“I would like to thank the victims and witnesses in this case who assisted the police and particular thanks are due to Detective Constable Wendy Leah who worked tirelessly on the investigation.
“Without the victims’ support for the case, Benson would not have been brought to justice. I hope the victims are now able to move on positively with their lives knowing that justice has been done.
“I would urge anyone who has been the victim of rape or sexual assault in any circumstances to report the crime to police.”
The ex-pupil said the incident occurred many years ago and said she has been left wondering if the girls had been believed at the time whether it would have stopped Benson going on to target others.
The former pupil said: “One of the girls in my class was seen out of school (with him) quite a lot. That’s when the rumours started that something wasn’t right about him.
“The girls had been talking and some teachers got wind of it.”
She then claimed: “The girls in our year were taken into the sports hall and were told to sit down.
“We were told that the rumours and conversations we were having among ourselves had to be stopped. There was no truth in the matter, we were told.
“If it continued it was said there would to be disciplinary action, such as suspension or expulsion. And if it carried on police could be involved. The whole time Mr Benson sat in the corner with his head down.
“I remember when it all came out (Benson being charged) all the girls from our year were talking about it. People were saying ‘it’s about time it all came out and opened the floodgates’.
“We were told it was not true. If they had listened to us would so many girls and people’s lives been affected?”
The former pupil believes many of the female pupils sensed there was something odd about Benson.
“Girls felt uncomfortable around him. He just wasn’t like a normal teacher. It was his behaviour and some of his quirky sayings. The girls in my year were just uneasy. He could be a bit touchy sometimes.
“I went back to the school a couple of years ago and had to see him.
“I said to my husband ‘he still gives me the creeps’.”
A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said there is no record of any complaint being made against Benson until his arrest on suspicion of abusing three teenagers.
Another woman who knew Benson painted a picture of a man with low self-esteem with, on occasions, a childish obsession with sex.
She also said he appeared to be addicted to sunbeds and tanning salons, which led to him being treated for pre-cancerous growths on his back.
The woman added Benson seemed a very anxious person, and did not appear to trust people, believing they would let him down.