Disgraced entertainer Jimmy Savile was afforded a "scarcely credible" level of access to British hospitals where he carried out a 30-year campaign of "narcissistic" abuse against hundreds of victims, an inquiry has found.
Savile, whose passing was initially mourned in 2011 before his crimes emerged into public view, raped or abused sixty-four victims — aged between eight and 40 — in just one hospital alone, Stoke Mandeville; though his oldest victim was 75.
An 11-year-old who became hysterical after she was assaulted by Savile in 1977 in Stoke Mandeville was told “to be quiet” by a ward sister, who said that he “raised a great deal of money for the hospital”. The victim said Savile behaved “like a king”.
In another case, Savile walked a nine-year-old around and around corridors in the hospital until she was confused about where she was and then raped her in a public, but empty corridor.
In 1973, Savile climbed through a window into a room where an 18-year-old girl was sedated suffering from burns to her hands, but the abuse ended when nurses walked into the room. No action was taken.
Illustrating the knowledge that existed about his conduct, staff nurses discouraged Savile from coming to their wards, which implies “there was knowledge at a more senior clinical level”, the report found.
Responding to the inquiry, the British Government said the “risk of a paedophile having unrestricted access to children, as Savile apparently had, is now substantially reduced” but the lead author of the report said risks still remain.
“I think it would be a mistake to think that Savile was just a figment of history and that it couldn’t happen again, and I think that there are still dangers to people in hospital, and I have made certain recommendations aimed at tightening up,” said Kate Lampard.
Senior staff from the National Health Service (NHS) greeted Savile warmly because he raised so much money, “but his status meant that staff who observed him behaving inappropriately or who received reports of him committing sexual abuses were reluctant to challenge him”, she told a press conference.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Savile’s brother, Johnny, who died in 1998, exploited his sibling’s fame to carry out his campaign of abuse in Springfield hospital in London — allegedly raping one girl in his office after he had met her at badminton.
Johnny Savile is alleged to have assaulted five patients, one worker and a visitor in a store-room that was filled with mattresses. He browbeat anyone who questioned his access by saying, “Do you know who I am?”
In her report, which was prompted by an ITV investigation, Ms Lampard said: "Much of the story of Savile and his associations with NHS hospitals is unusual to the point of being scarcely credible.
“It concerns a famous, flamboyantly eccentric, narcissistic and manipulative television personality using his celebrity profile and his much-publicised volunteering and fundraising roles to gain access, influence and power in certain hospitals.”
UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised to victims, saying: "What happened was horrific, caused immeasurable and often permanent damage and betrayed vulnerable people who trusted us to keep them safe. We let them down."
In all, Savile abused in 41 hospitals throughout Britain — “that’s almost a quarter of National Health Service acute hospitals”, Mr Hunt told MPs — as well as five mental health trusts and two children’s hospitals.
Thirteen recommendations have been accepted, including new rules to govern access, volunteering, safeguarding, complaints and governance, but also new rules governing celebrities’ visits to hospitals.
“Never again must the power of money or celebrity blind us to repeated clear signals that some extremely vulnerable people were being abused,” declared Mr Hunt, who said tougher rules governing the use of social media in hospitals were also necessary.
Meanwhile, Labour’s Andy Burnham said no-one could any longer deny that Savile’s abuse had not been widespread: “It literally beggars belief that abuse on this scale, known by so many people, was allowed to go on for so long,” he said.