Ex-Celtic Boys Club coach accused of abuse tracked to US

By Mark Daly
BBC Scotland Investigations Correspondent

Media caption,
Ex-Celtic Boys Club coach accused of abuse tracked to US

One of the men accused of child sex abuse in football in a BBC documentary has been tracked down to the US.

Celtic Boys Club founder and former coach Jim Torbett, who has previously been convicted of sexually assaulting boys, faces fresh allegations of abusing young players.

He denies the allegations.

Last month, BBC Scotland aired allegations by two men that they were sexually abused by Torbett when they played for Celtic Boys Club.

One of them, Kenny Campbell, told the programme Football Abuse: The Ugly Side of The Beautiful Game he was molested dozens of times by Torbett over a period of up to four years.

He told me: "I trusted the wrong person. It took me years and years to realise that. He's got a lot to answer for. A lot to answer for."

Last month, I attempted to confront Torbett with the allegations, but neighbours in his block of flats told me he was abroad, perhaps in America.

Then, last week I received a tip that he was indeed in the US, and along with BBC cameraman Alan Harcus, we travelled there and tracked him down to a suburb of Modesto, in California.

For two days we watched as he and a man the BBC understands to be William Gilbert worked in the garden and washed cars. But with strict trespassing laws in the US, in order to put our questions to him, we needed Torbett to set foot on a public pavement.

When they left to go to a local shopping centre, we followed, two cars behind. The pair entered a shop, and we waited for them to emerge. Mr Gilbert, who we heard referring to Torbett as "my dad", recognised me and attempted to stop us.

I looked inside the shop but Torbett seemed to have disappeared. We waited for around 10 tense minutes as Mr Gilbert patrolled the area. Torbett then emerged from the shop, and I began to ask my questions.

Mr Torbett declined to answer the majority of the questions I put to him about the abuse claims, but when asked what he had to say to Kenny Campbell, he answered: "I have a lot to say. I'll see him in court."

He denied being a paedophile.

Image caption,
Jim Torbett is on a 90-day visa in the US

During all this, Mr Gilbert attempted to prevent us filming by covering the camera, but eventually Alan managed to free himself and get the camera round to Torbett as he tried to close the car door.

I had placed myself inside the open car door to allow me the time to put my questions to him.

Mr Gilbert then lunged for my microphone, telling me where he wanted to shove it.

They reversed off, with Mr Gilbert at the wheel, driving over my right foot. With that, it was over; it had been a torrid few minutes.

Previous convictions

Torbett is travelling on an Esta, which is a visa waiver allowing a maximum stay of 90 days. Any convictions, spent or otherwise, are supposed to be declared to the US Embassy when filling out the form.

Sources in the embassy say someone with a child sex offence conviction would be very unlikely to be allowed entry to the US, so it is unclear what, if anything, Torbett has declared.

The United States does not have access to the Police National Computer, however, they can request details of criminal convictions on an individual request basis.

Failure to declare previous convictions on an Esta can be a criminal offence in the US.

It is understood Torbett is close to the 90 days maximum, and he is expected to return to the UK shortly.

When he does, these questions will persist.

A major police investigation is currently under way into claims that he, and others at Celtic Boys Club, abused boys there over several decades.

More on this story

Related Topics