Friday, November 23, 2007

Celtic Sex fiend left me weeping in Norway

by Anna Smith

At just 13, he was Celtic's youngest-ever signing and hailed as Scotland's greatest prospect. But John McCluskey's dreams of stardom were tarnished by Jim Torbett. The innocent lad was used for tawdry sex by the manager during a boys' club trip to Norway. And, when Torbett had fulfilled his sick obsession, he left his victim alone, confused and crying.

John, the brother of Parkhead favourite George McCluskey, spoke yesterday of the agony he has felt for 23 years. Near tears, he said: "My guilt and shame now is not for what happened that night. My shame is that I waited 23 years to do anything about it. "Dunblane was the one thing that made me come forward. If some of the boys abused by Thomas Hamilton had spoken out, perhaps the massacre might not have happened." Striker John was destined to be a Celtic great. At 12, he so impressed Jock Stein that he was promised a place on the ground staff as soon as he left school. A key player at Celtic Boys' Club, John's Lanarkshire home was littered with trophies and medals. But one Best Player trophy fills him with revulsion each time he looks at it. It was given him after the awful night in Norway that changed his life forever. John said: "Every time I look at that trophy, I wonder if I got it because of what Torbett did to me. "I've always felt like throwing it in a river. But, if I had, I'd have had to tell everyone what happened." Tears fill John's eyes as he relives the nightmare. He said: "We were lying in a dormitory talking about football -the usual stuff. "Torbett was sleeping in the dorm and shouted, `Fryer' -my nickname -`go in that room and sort the strips for tomorrow'. "But, when I went in, the strips were already sorted. "Torbett followed me in and sat me down on the bed. He put his hand inside my pyjamas and fondled me. "I was terrified. I didn't know what to do. I just sat there and let him do it to me. "When I think of it now it makes me sick. "He left, and I cried my eyes out. I didn't want to go back among the boys and I didn't want to be by myself. I was so frightened. "Eventually I went back to bed and pulled the covers over my head. "I didn't know what to think. I thought there must be something wrong with me and I must have enjoyed it, otherwise I wouldn't have let him do it to me. "So I was terrified to complain to anyone."

John had been on other foreign trips with the boys' club. But he came back from Norway a different person. He said: "Everything had changed. But I was still determined to be a great player. "I trained hard and played really well. I don't know how, but I was able to concentrate on my game." But he stayed away from Torbett. He said: "A crowd of boys used to go to his home all the time. I went once, and that was enough for me. "I saw him beat up a lad who played with the boys' club, but was about 17 and seemed to live with him. "I was horrified to see him slapping his face and punching him, yet the boy did nothing to stop him. "There was always talk around Celtic about Torbett and boys, but nothing seemed to be done until Jock Stein found out. "He kicked Torbett out, but it was still kept quiet. "All the directors and lots of others knew why Torbett got the boot, but it was swept under the carpet."

John soon became a young Scottish hero, scoring the winner against England at Wembley in a 1975 schoolboy international. All eyes were on the boy who was to be the new Kenny Dalglish. But, two years later, a kick in training caused a blood clot on his leg that destroyed his career. John made a brief comeback, playing with Celtic's first team in a European tie when he was still 17. But his injury recurred, and he hasn't played since. For nearly 20 years, he has watched former team-mates grab the trophies as his life has become a tragic tale of booze and disappointment. John, who now hasn't touched a drop in four years, reckons his injury helped push him into drinking. But he is sure his biggest reason was to blot out the memory of Torbett's abuse. He said: "I started drinking after Norway. Suddenly it looked like something I wanted to do. "I was drinking heavily from 17. It was the only way to forget what Torbett did. "I was shattered that my career had finished. But I could have lived with that if it hadn't been for Norway. "I'm so glad I don't have sons. I would have wanted to send them to Celtic Boys Club, but I would always have wondered if some pervert was abusing them. "It took me a long time to come to terms with what happened and understand it wasn't my fault. "But there are still days when I suddenly find myself in tears. "Nobody should get away with what Torbett did. How many more boys have suffered because of him? "I still love Celtic. I go to Parkhead every week and I'll be a Celtic man until I die. "I only hope real Celtic fans will understand why I have come forward. If I can help stop this happening to one more boy, it will have been worthwhile."

TORBETT PLEADED AS HIS VICTIM SOBBED A few days ago, John got a chilling phone call from Torbett pleading his innocence. It came after John made a sworn statement about the pervert to Celtic's lawyers, in the presence of club supremo Fergus McCann. John said: "I didn't even tell my brother George about Torbett until last week. "He was furious and wanted to do something about it. I told him to leave it, that I was coping fine. "But, when he left the house, I just burst into tears. "While I was crying, the phone rang. It was Torbett. "He said: `What are you doing to me, son?' "I told him it was what he did to me that was the problem. "He said:`You know I never touched you, son. You know I loved you, and your family.' "I was sick, just listening to him. "I told him that I hadn't gone to the police or the newspapers and he said, `I appreciate that, son'."

John told how a visit from the police, who were investigating sex abuse allegations at Celtic Boys' Club dating back four years, finally made him come forward. He said: "The police were asking about someone else. "I thought they wanted to talk about Torbett, but they didn't, so I didn't tell them my story. "I spoke to Tommy Burns about it instead. He got me to make a statement to Fergus McCann who asked me to make a statement to their lawyers. "I have now done that. I will also make a statement to the police." If you are a victim of sexual abuse at Celtic Boys' Club we want to talk to you. Please call us on 0141-242-3409 or 3325.
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