Celtic Boys’ Club sex predator Jim Torbett given second chance to abuse young players
BBC documentary says Torbett was allowed to return to the Boys’ Club after initial allegations while also revealing how former Rangers and Hibs coach Gordon Neely abused kids.
A bombshell TV documentary last night revealed how sex predator Jim Torbett was allowed to return to Celtic Boys’ Club – only a few years after he was kicked out for abusing youth players.
The BBC Scotland programme spoke to more than 20 victims of sex abuse in football and shed light on how big clubs and police missed opportunities to stop known offenders.
The programme, Football Abuse: The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Game, exposed the blatant methods of serial abusers like Celtic Boys’ Club founder Torbett, who was brought to justice after an award-winning Daily Record investigation in the 80s.
It also reveals graphic accounts of abuse by former Rangers and Hibs coach Gordon Neely, from his time at both clubs and with youth club Hutchison Vale.
Alleged victims told the programme that Torbett was able to return to Celtic – even though he as known to be an abuser – which enabled him to attack more victims.
Torbett was only ever convicted for crimes committed up to 1974.
But alleged victim Kenny Campbell claims he was abused after legendary manager Jock Stein – who booted Torbett out of the boys’ club over child abuse claims – had left Celtic.
Torbett was welcomed back in 1980.
Kenny, of Uddingston, Lanarkshire, moved to Celtic’s reserves in 1989 after three years with Celtic Boys’ Club.
He said: “I feel aggrieved at that if they had never let him back in it would have never happened in the first place, I could have had a normal life, normal people round about me.
“If Celtic had done their due diligence, as they always say, it wouldn’t have happened to me.”
Kenny has fought to get his life back on track after the abuse resulted in drink and drug problems.
He said that after he joined Celtic Boys’ Club at 13, Torbett won the trust of his parents, even spending a Christmas Day with them.
But he added that the abuse soon started and escalated to the point where Torbett was giving him cash – sometimes up to £530 on one day.
Kenny also claimed, in graphic detail, how up to three boys were abused at the same time in his flat.
Another victim who spoke to the BBC said Torbett abused him dozens of times over three years from 1990.
Torbett was jailed for two years in 1998 for sexually abusing three young players between 1967 and 1974.
Ex-Scotland international Alan Brazil was among those to testify against his former coach.
The BBC programme said they had spoken to three other former Celtic Boys’ Club officials – who were employed at the time in question – who also say they were told Torbett was sacked by Stein after complaints Torbett had abused boys. But police were never called.
The show also alleged that Torbett’s departure from Celtic Boys Club was described in club magazine The Celtic View as a business decision – amounting to a “massive cover-up.”
The programme also features a photograph of Stein, the Boys’ Club honorary president, presenting an award to Torbett for services to the club three years after kicking him out.
The documentary claimed directors at Celtic would have known that Torbett had been accused of abuse prior to having him back at Celtic Boys’ Club in 1980, where he stayed until 1996.
Torbett was out of the country when the BBC tried to approach him but he denies the new allegations of abuse.
BBC investigator Mark Daly also spoke to alleged victims of notorious Gordon Neely, who abused young players for decades.
Victims provided harrowing accounts of how they were targeted while Neely was a coach at Hibs and later at Rangers, who were not tipped off about the predator.
Rangers claim that when they discovered Neely was a dangerous pervert, they informed police – but
the BBC could find no trace of such a complaint.
Neely, who died of cancer three years ago, later abused young footballers on residential courses at Dalguise House, Dunkeld, Perthshire.
Victim Jon Cleland, from Dunfermline, was abused by Neely from the age of 11 while a player for Hutchison Vale in 1982 and later while training with Hibs.
Jon said: “He said I looked like I had an injury.
“And put me over his knee and started to spank me, then he asked me to lean over a desk – and that’s when I was raped.”
He added: “I can’t be a hundred percent sure but it was at least eight to 10 times over the space of 18 months.”
Another victim gave details of being attacked by Neely at Hibs, who spanked him in his office at the club in 1984.
Hibs failed to report the coach to the police, enabling him to progress to Rangers with his reputation intact, under the management of Graeme Souness and Walter Smith in 1986.
The abuse allegedly continued at Ibrox. Rangers fired him in 1990 after an accusation of inappropriate behavior.
One former Rangers youth player, referred to as George in the programme, said: “He had his own office inside Ibrox and he’d call you in and he’d make you close the door – and he’d pull your shorts and pants down and then he’d spank you with like this kind of, like, rubber shoe.
“I mean I wasn’t the only one. He’d give you 10 or 20 whacks for anything. I was only about 13.”
After Rangers got rid of Neely, he ran football courses at Dalguise House, where more abuse took place.
One victim, referred to as Paul, played for Edinburgh clubs between 1995 and 1998.
He said: “He told me I had a condition that was hampering me. And that he could help me with it.
“So he would examine my backside, and then he would put his fingers inside me.”
Paul’s alleged abuse took place around a decade after complaints about Neely were made to Hibs – and more than five years after a complaint was made at Rangers.
Victims also told of being abused by a major scout, who is still alive but who can’t be named for legal reasons.
The scout worked for Rangers and Hibs, as well as English giants Chelsea and Liverpool.
A spokesman for Celtic told BBC Scotland the Boys’ Club was a “separate and distinct” organisation from Celtic Football Club but asked anyone with concerns to contact them.
They added: “It was vital that justice was served at that time, due to the extremely serious nature of this issue.
“Clearly, a large number of football clubs across Britain have been impacted by these historical issues.
“Celtic Football Club considers that it is of the utmost importance that football, other sports organisations and indeed all areas of society ensure that the issue of safeguarding is given the attention it deserves.”
In a statement to the BBC, Hibs said they were “saddened to be told” that personnel at the club at the time were “allegedly made aware of concerns” about Neely and allegedly did not contact the police with the concerns.
They said “current policies and practices” would “prevent this from happening today.”
Rangers told us they were aware of an alleged incident more than 25 years ago. They said: “It is understood” the individual was “dismissed immediately” and that the “police were informed”.
Police Scotland told the BBC they could not confirm whether Rangers made a complaint or not. No trace of a police report being sent to the procurator fiscal could be found.
More than 80 men involved in football are being investigated by police across the UK. Among them are John Hart, former physiotherapist at Partick Thistle, Jim McCafferty, ex-youth coach and kitman at Celtic, Hibs and Falkirk, and Hugh Stevenson, who was a youth coach and referee.
Police have received more than 130 claims of child sex abuse within Scottish football since November.