LONDON: The family of the BBC presenter at the centre of an abuse scandal that has rocked the broadcaster offered its “deepest sympathy” to the late Jimmy Savile’s victims yesterday, saying it felt “despair and sadness”.
The statement came as the Roman Catholic Church in England said it had written to the Vatican to ask whether it was possible to strip Savile of a papal knighthood due to allegations he had abused young girls.
Police said earlier this week that some 300 victims had come forward and that they were preparing to make arrests in a scandal that has already damaged the internationally-renowned broadcaster’s reputation.
Savile’s nephew Roger Foster said in a statement that the family had been unaware of Savile’s “darker side”, and was struggling to reconcile the image of the man they loved with allegations that were becoming overwhelming.
“How could the person we thought we knew and loved do such a thing?” said the statement. “We recognise that even our own despair and sadness does not compare to that felt by the victims.”
Savile, a cigar-chomping former DJ who was one of the BBC’s top presenters, died last year aged 84.
The scandal has destroyed the reputation of a man who had been widely admired and honoured for his charity work and has raised troubling questions about the BBC’s management and its workplace culture in the past.
Police have said Savile was “undoubtedly” one of Britain’s most prolific offenders, while the head of the BBC’s governing body has called the allegations a “tsunami of filth”.
“Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have suffered from every kind of abuse over so many years and we offer our deepest sympathy in what must have been a terrible time for all of them,” the family statement to the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper read. Foster said he had watched “in horror” as British TV channel ITV first aired an expose “with allegations of a darker side to him that we knew nothing about”.
“This wasn’t the man we knew and loved,” Foster said, saying “the allegations are very serious and we began to have doubts as to our own feeling towards our uncle.” REUTERS