Gary Glitter arrested as BBC faces new questions

Mon, Oct 29, 2012, 00:00

British police arrested convicted sex offender Gary Glitter yesterday as part of an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, while further questions have been raised about the corporation itself and its former director Mark Thompson.

Glitter was released on bail 10 hours later. But the arrest – the first to be reported in the case – widened a scandal that has already damaged the reputation of the BBC and the legacy of Savile, a former DJ who was one of the broadcaster’s top show hosts and a prolific charity fund-raiser.

The head of the BBC’s governing body said yesterday the broadcaster’s reputation was on the line, and promised to get to the bottom of the scandal.

A police statement said a man in his 60s had been picked up just after 7am on suspicion of sexual offences in the investigation termed “Savile and others”. The statement did not name the man and a spokesman declined further comment.

The BBC and Sky News identified the man picked up from his London home as Glitter, a 68-year-old who was popular as a glam-rock singer in the 1970s.

Footage on both broadcasters showed Glitter, who was wearing a hat and sunglasses and was not handcuffed, leaving an apartment in central London and being driven away. Hours later television reports showed investigators carrying large black bags as they left the house.

Glitter was held by police for about 10 hours. He was seen leaving a police station in central London and, minutes later, returned to his apartment, where he dodged questions by scores of waiting reporters and cameramen.

Police later said the man was “bailed to return to the police station in mid-December 2012, pending further inquiries”.

Glitter, born Paul Gadd, shot to fame in the early 1970s with the hit Rock and Roll, trademark figure-hugging shiny silver all-in-one suits, platform shoes and large black hair.

He served two months in jail in Britain in 1999 for possession of child pornography. He then moved to Cambodia, but was deported in 2002 due to suspected sex offences. In 2006, a Vietnamese court convicted him of committing obscene acts with two girls aged 10 and 11 and sentenced him to four years in jail. On his release he returned to Britain.

Allegations that Savile sexually abused young girls for decades emerged in an exposé on television channel ITV. Since then, police say some 300 victims have come forward.

Victims’ allegations broadcast by ITV include claims from one woman that she had seen Glitter having sex with an underage girl in Savile’s BBC dressing room while Savile abused another girl. Glitter has denied the claim, according to the BBC.

The scandal has raised troubling questions about the BBC’s management and its past workplace culture. Revelations that an investigation by Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship TV news programme, was shelved last December led to claims bosses at the broadcaster knew about the allegations but kept quiet.

The Sunday Times said the office of former BBC director Mark Thompson was alerted about the allegations twice, in May and September. Thompson is poised to take over as chief executive of the New York Times, and the Sunday Times quoted his spokesman as saying Thompson had not been told about the allegations on either occasion.

Thompson has told Reuters that he did not know about the nature of the investigation by the Newsnight programme into Savile, and had no involvement in the decision to axe the report.

The BBC has announced two investigations as a result of the scandal, and Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC trust which oversees the broadcaster, promised full co-operation.