A BBC reporter and cameraman followed a convicted sexual abuser of children from Scotland to Modesto, where they recently confronted him outside a business in the McHenry Village shopping center.
Jim Torbett is a founder and former coach with the Celtic Boys Club soccer club, according to the BBC story by Mark Daly. He faces and denies fresh allegations of abusing young players, the story says.
Daly wrote last month that he attempted to confront Torbett, 69, at home in Scotland but was told by neighbors he was abroad. Daly last week got a tip that Torbett was in the United States. He and cameraman Alan Harcus tracked Torbett to Modesto, where they observed him working in the garden and washing cars at a home off Scenic Drive.
The BBC team followed Torbett and a resident of the home, William Gilbert, to the shopping center and confronted them outside Village Cleaners. In a video posted with the story, Daly asks Torbett to respond to the allegations of abusing youth and of using his position with the Celtic Boys Club as a front for his pedophiliac activities. Torbett responds only that he’ll answer the allegations in court.
At home with his wife Tuesday morning, Gilbert said Torbett is a close family friend of 20 years and is in Modesto visiting them. He said Torbett has been “a father figure to both my brother and me” since their police sergeant father died decades ago.
Torbett never admitted to the crimes for which he was convicted, Gilbert said, and the family and many others in Scotland believe he is not guilty.
Torbett is traveling on an Esta, a visa waiver that allows a maximum stay of 90 days, according to Daly’s story. “Any convictions, spent or otherwise, are supposed to be declared to the U.S. Embassy when filling out the form.
“Sources in the embassy say someone with a child sex offense conviction would be very unlikely to be allowed entry to the U.S., so it is unclear what, if anything, Torbett has declared.”
Modesto Police Detective Adam Messer said that a convicted, registered child sex offender is required to register with police. The Police Department then coordinates with the California Department of Justice on what additional registration is required of an offender. Torbett did not register with the MPD, said Messer, who could not find Torbett registered with the state, either.
The Bee has made requests with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the state Department of Justice and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to determine what Torbett is required to do when traveling into the U.S. and California and how much of that, if any, he has done. According to a spokessoman for the Department of Justice, “Persons convicted of sex offenses outside the state of California have five days to register if they are permanently residing here, going to school here, or working here for a certain period of time. Otherwise, they are technically not required to register, though they frequently will contact local law enforcement proactively to make their presence known.”
Whether Torbett declared his conviction at the U.S. Embassy in London when applying for the Esta visa waiver is unknown. Because of the time difference, the embassy was closed Tuesday during the morning hours in California.
Gilbert said Torbett is not a registered sex offender in Scotland. He said Daly’s coverage prompted a visit to his home from immigration officials, who found no violations.
Torbett was convicted of abusing three Celtic Boys Club players in 1998 and jailed for 30 months, according to a Daily Record story in November. The abuse happened between 1968 and 1974. A team of Daily Record reporters won an award for uncovering the scandal in 1995.
Daly wrote in his story that the BBC last month aired allegations by two men that they, too, were sexually abused by Torbett when they played for the soccer club. One of them, Kenny Campbell, said in the documentary “Football Abuse: The Ugly Side of The Beautiful Game” that he was molested dozens of times by Torbett over a period of up to four years, the story says.
Gilbert said Torbett is near the end of his 90-day Esta and will return to the United Kingdom. He simply is vacationing here and is not trying to dodge the investigation, Gilbert said.
Daly wrote: “A major police investigation is currently under way into claims that (Torbett), and others at Celtic Boys Club, abused boys there over several decades.”
The reporter has been hounding Torbett, Gilbert said. In no democratic country, he said, is it all right for the media to try a person. Torbett’s only “downfall is he’s too generous, his kindness,” Gilbert said. “He’s a very generous individual who likes to help people.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327