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FOR MORE than 30 years the shadow of sexual abuse has hung over Celtic Football Club.

From the boardroom to the dressing room, it was murmured that Celtic Boys' Club boss Jim Torbett was molesting young stars.

Celtic heroes such as Charlie Nicholas, Tommy Burns, Peter Grant and Roy Aitken all grew up in the Hoops nursery when there were whispers about Torbett.

To a man, the Celtic board did nothing to expose the pervert and the dreadful scandal.

Only when Fergus McCann took over as chief executive and started his own investigation was the secrecy broken.

If ever a story had been hushed up it was this one.

The shameful silence only helped the man who preyed on the teenage hopefuls, knowing they would be too afraid to reveal the truth.

In the end it took the courage of three former Celtic Boys' Club victims to reveal the dark shame that has haunted the club.

Former Celtic starlet David Gordon was the first to tell police in Glasgow's London Road the story that he had been too ashamed to share for 24 years.

Torbett abused him in the early 1970s in the Sighthill council flat where he lured boys with ices, sweets and the promise of a place in the squad.

Former Celtic youngster and Scotland international Alan Brazil had also been molested in Torbett's home on an evening when both boys were there together.

The Daily Record became involved in August 1996 after a contact told us police were probing claims of abuse stretching back more than 20 years.

The allegations had resurfaced after Fergus McCann took over in 1994 and appointed Tommy Burns as manager.

A picture in the Celtic View of Burns shaking hands with his old pal Frank Cairney brought the wrath of ex-pat fans in Kearney, New Jersey, where Celtic Boys' Club went on tours.

It was in the home of a local fan that a young Celtic star claimed he was abused by Cairney in 1991 when he was general manager of the Boys' Club.

Cairney quit. Last week, he was acquitted at Glasgow Sheriff Court on five charges of shameless and indecency involving former Boys' Club players.

The case collapsed due to insufficient evidence and some of the witnesses were unclear about dates of alleged offences.

It was a call to Celtic Park by one of them that led McCann to conduct his own investigation.

He was the only Celtic boss ever to take positive action on the matter.

McCann and his lawyers interviewed John McCluskey, then David Gordon and Alan Brazil, taking sworn statements that Torbett abused them.

While Celtic's lawyers were discussing the matter with Alan Brazil, the Record met up with him in Norfolk, to discuss the allegations.

He said that he had been abused by Torbett and he believed there were other victims. He put David Gordon in touch with us.

At first, taxi driver David was reluctant to talk, but we met in a darkened side street in Glasgow's east end.

There, the burly six-footer broke down in tears as he recalled the abuse that ended his football career and has left him depressed and lonely.

The next man to open his heart was former Celtic star John McCluskey.

Now an alcoholic, the man once hailed as the new Kenny Dalglish had carried his burden for 23 years.

McCluskey told through tears of the night Torbett performed a sex act on him as other boys slept nearby on a Boys' Club trip to Norway. He was 13 years of age.

With sworn statements from the three victims, the Record published the revelations that so many had suspected for years.

Our special phone line was jammed with calls backing up the claims of Brazil, McCluskey and Gordon.

Some of the calls were harrowing - men now in their 30s sobbed as they spoke for the first time of the abuse.

We passed our full dossier of complaints to Strathclyde Police who arrested Torbett.

Record team Anna Smith, Iain Ferguson and Charles Beaton were given a Reporter of the Year Award for uncovering the scandal.

Judges chairman Lord McCluskey said: "It demonstrated excellent, in-depth investigative journalism, which exposed the Celtic Boys' Club sex abuse scandal and those involved who abused their position."

In the wake of our story, McCann issued new guidelines to vet Boys' Club bosses. It is an independent organisation and, while not officially part of Celtic FC, it has a long and proud association with Parkhead.

McCann's eight-page guide comprehensively tells all Celtic officials of how to protect youngsters and pledges full club support to promptly investigate any claims of inappropriate behaviour.

Torbett only met justice because a handful of courageous men came forward. John McCluskey said: "He ruined my life. And for every victim who came forward there are five more who still can't bear to tell their secret."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 13, 1998
Previous Article:How I tried in vain to get the parents and their sons to tell the police.
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