Savile 'a prolific, predatory sex offender'

Sat, Jan 12, 2013, 00:00

Television star Jimmy Savile thought about abusing children “every minute of every waking day”, the police officer investigating his decades of abuse has said, following a report that nearly 500 victims dating back to the 1950s have come forward.

Children, mostly young teenagers, though one was as young as eight, were fondled in the BBC Top of the Pops studio, hospitals, even a hospice, according to the joint Metropolitan Police-National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children report.

The investigation was sparked by an ITV exposé last October when five women claimed Savile had abused them during the 1970s – though the BBC could have aired allegations against him a year earlier, but it abandoned a programme.

The earliest abuse dates back to 1955 when he was a porter in Leeds General Infirmary, while the latest occurred in 2009 when the broadcaster – who died in 2011 – was 83 years old.

Most of his victims were fondled, groped or forced to place their hands on his private parts, but 34 rapes are alleged – 26 girls and eight boys – along with 126 cases of indecent assault, detectives have been told.

In all, there are 450 allegations. So far, detectives accept that 214 criminal offences occurred throughout Britain and the Channel Islands, although none has been recorded to date in Northern Ireland.

He could have been prosecuted two years before his death, but prosecutors and police were too cautious and, in effect, frightened a number of women away from giving evidence against him.

While his youngest victim was eight, his oldest was a man aged 47 who was held at a psychiatric institution in the west of England which Savile visited ostensibly to help patients.

Nearly three-quarters were under 18 and most of them were between 13 and 16, while four in five were female – often fans who had applied for tickets to Jim’ll Fix It or Top of the Pops.

Described as a predatory sex offender, Savile’s most prolific years as an abuser occurred between 1965 and 1976 – from his 40s to his 50s, according to the Metropolitan Police-NSPCC report.

Seriously assaulted

In 1965, he met a 14-year-old girl at a disco. Later, she came to his home in Leeds where she was raped. In 1972, Savile groped a 12-year-old boy’s genitals during a break in a Top of the Pops’ recording.

A year later, he befriended a 16-year-old girl in hospital, before sexually assaulting her in an office. In 1974, he took a 14-year-old schoolgirl for a drive in his car. She, too, was seriously assaulted.

“It’s clear Savile cunningly built his entire life into gaining access to vulnerable children,” said Peter Watt of the NSPCC, who said he was one of the worst sex offenders ever revealed. Calls to the NSPCC quadrupled in October and have remained high since.

However, the scandal has helped to change British attitudes towards reporting suspicions of abuse, with people now prepared more “to speak up for children”, said the child protection body.

One mother, who frequently verbally abused her children, was reported by a neighbour since last October after she was heard slap a crying child: “It’s really made me feel bad that I didn’t report it earlier,” the neighbour told the NSPCC.

In most cases, Savile was “opportunistic” in his assaults, but some victims were “groomed”, though there is no evidence that the Leeds-born entertainer was part of a paedophile ring.

While Savile had abused before he became famous celebrity fuelled his crimes, since he was allowed unsupervised access to a children’s home in Duncroft in Surrey where management were flattered by the star’s interest.

Offered ‘favours’

There, he “preyed upon girls by offering ‘favours’ such as trips in his car and cigarettes in return for sexual activity”, while he also enjoyed freedom to roam in Leeds General Infirmary, Broadmoor Hospital and Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Savile served as an outside expert at Broadmoor, enjoying an office and flat outside the main building and keys to the hospital, while victims are believed, too, to have been abused at his Scottish holiday cottage in Glencoe.

“It’s believed that he manipulated some of those around him to access potential victims and by real or implied threats used his status and position to prevent his activities being made public,” said the report.

By the early 1990s, the abuses by Savile – who threatened legal actions on a few occasions when attempts were made to report allegations – were down to one or two a year, compared with 15 allegations a year in the early 1970s.

Displaying Savile’s confidence bordering on arrogance, he is known to have sexually assaulted a 10-year-old boy at a hotel reception, shortly after the boy had sought his autograph.

“This whole sordid affair has demonstrated the true consequences of what happens when vulnerability collides with power. He groomed a nation,” said Peter Spindler, commander at Scotland Yard’s Specialist Crime Investigations.

The scale of the abuse

450

Number of people who gave information to the police about Savile, of whom 328 were children at the time of the offences against them.

214

Number of alleged crimes.

34

Number of people he allegedly raped.

73%

Were under 18 years of age.

82%

Were female.

8

Age of youngest victim, a boy. His oldest victim was 47.

57

Allegations linked to hospital premises, including hospices, to which Savile was connected.

33

Number of claims linked to television or radio studios in which Savile worked.

Crime and impunity Chronicle of abuse

October 31st, 1926Jimmy Savile was born in Leeds, the youngest of seven children.

1955The earliest incident of abuse recorded by the police, which took place in Manchester, where he managed a dance hall.

1960In one of the handful of example cases given by police, a 10-year-old boy asked Savile for his autograph outside a hotel. Savile took the boy inside and seriously sexually assaulted him.

January 1st, 1964Savile presented the first Top of the Pops for the BBC. He had previously been a DJ at Radio Luxembourg in 1958.

1965The first recorded abuse by Savile took place at the BBC, at Leeds General Infirmary, where Savile was a long-term volunteer porter, and at Stoke Mandeville hospital, where he also volunteered.

1966The start of what police have identified as Savile's peak period for abuse, which lasted for a decade.

1970The first recorded abuse at Duncroft girls school near Staines, Surrey, where Savile was a regular visitor.

1972In another example offence listed by police, Savile groped a 12-year-old boy and his two female friends who were attending a BBC recording of Top of the Pops.

1980sAt some point in the decade, a female victim is believed to have told the Metropolitan Police she had been assaulted in Savile's camper van in a BBC car park. The police file cannot be located and the investigating officer is now dead.

1990Savile was knighted in Britain, also receiving a papal knighthood.

April 2000In a BBC TV documentary presented by Louis Theroux, Savile acknowledged the rumours about him being a paedophile, but denied it.

July 26th, 2006Savile co-presented the final Top of the Pops, an occasion that gave rise to one of the allegations made to police.

March 2008Savile began legal proceedings against a newspaper that linked him to abuse at the Jersey children's home Haut de la Garenne.

2009Savile was interviewed under caution by Surrey police investigating an alleged indecent assault at Duncroft school. The Crown Prosection Service advised there was insufficient evidence to take any further action. This was the year of the last offence recorded by the current investigation. Another example offence, in which a woman (43) was sexually assaulted by Savile on a train journey between Leeds and London, dates from 2009.

October 29th, 2011Savile died aged 84. A BBC Newsnight investigation into Savile's alleged abuse was dropped, and the BBC broadcast a tribute programme to him.

October 4th, 2012An ITV documentary featured five women who recounted being abused by Savile in the 1970s. Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into offences by Savile and others, began the next day. Police initially based their investigations on the assumption that he had abused up to 25 victims. So far, about 450 people have come forward.