LONDON: Late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a predatory sex offender who abused children as young as eight over more than 50 years, using his fame and eccentricity to hide “in plain sight”, British police said yesterday.
A three-month investigation with child protection experts found that Savile, one of the biggest TV stars in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, took every opportunity to abuse young girls, boys and adult women across the country.
He used his fame as presenter of BBC TV’s Top of the Pops chart show and children’s programme Jim’ll Fix It to rape and assault victims on BBC premises as well as in schools and hospitals, where he was welcomed by his fans.
The scandal has thrown the BBC into crisis although police said yesterday that the world’s biggest public broadcaster should not shoulder the blame for his abuse. The investigation report was published as Britain’s top prosecutor admitted that action could have been taken over three allegations made against Savile in 2009 if police had taken the victims more seriously.
Savile, who died in October 2011 at the age of 84, was a hugely popular but eccentric figure, famed for his shock of white hair, tracksuits and chunky gold jewellery. He was knighted in 1990. There were rumours about his private life but he batted them away with jokes.
A year after his death, five women went on television to complain Savile had abused them when they were girls, opening the floodgates for hundreds of similar allegations. About 450 people have come forward with information, with 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes — 28 of them of children — recorded so far. Three quarters of the victims were children, mostly girls aged between 13 and 16, but the youngest was an eight-year-old boy.
The attacks stretched from 1955 to 2009 and were “mainly opportunistic sexual assaults — many in situations manipulated by Savile”.Police said Savile was able to get away with it because of his fame as well as the shame felt by his victims and their fears they would not be believed. Commander Peter Spindler, who led Scotland Yard’s investigation into Savile, cautioned against blaming any one institution for the abuse, which took place at the BBC, in schools, in 13 hospitals and even in one hospice, where a teenage visitor was assaulted. AFP