FILE – This is a March 25, 2008 file photo of Sir Jimmy Savile, who for decades was a fixture on British television. A year after he died, aged 84 and honored as Sir Jimmy, several women have come forward to claim he was also a sexual predator and serial abuser of underage girls. The child abuse scandal that has enveloped the BBC, one of Britain’s most respected news organizations, is now hitting one of America’s, as the incoming president of The New York Times is on the defensive about his final days as head of the BBC. Mark Thompson was in charge of the BBC in late 2011 when the broadcaster shelved what would have been a bombshell investigation alleging that the late Savile was a serial sex offender. (AP Photo/ Lewis Whyld/PA, File)
LONDON (AP) — Jimmy Savile was one of the best-known faces on British television. So how was he able to become one of the country’s worst child sex predators without ever being caught?
Since the revelations began earlier this month, it’s become clear that victims raised the alarm, police were aware of the allegations and journalists suspected that something was up.
Here’s a look at a few points where Savile’s abuse might have been stopped.
IN [auth] THE 1960S:
When Savile was a dance hall manager in the northern England city of Leeds, his predatory behavior was already known. In a recent article published in the Mail Online, biographer Dan Davies said one of Savile’s co-workers at the time joked that the entertainer “was either going to be a huge success or in prison” for having sex with 14-year-old girls.
When Savile found work with the BBC, senior management became suspicious. Corporation press officer Rodney Collins said in a recent interview with the BBC that he was told by his then-boss that he had “heard things about Jimmy Savile” and underage girls. The boss asked Collins to check with his newspaper contacts; Collins got gossip, but no evidence. Collins said his journalist friends told him at the time the gossip would probably never come to light “whether true or not.”
IN OR AROUND 1975:
Savile’s great-niece, Caroline Robinson, told her grandmother she was sexually abused by Savile at a family party. Robinson, who was 12 at the time, was interviewed by the ITV television network earlier this week. She said her late grandmother shrugged off the abuse, telling her: “It’s only Jimmy, don’t worry …”
IN THE 1980S:
A woman told London’s Metropolitan Police that Jimmy Savile assaulted her inside his trailer while it was parked on BBC premises. The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence.
Sunday Mirror editor Paul Connew met with two women who alleged abuse by Savile. Connew said he found their testimony compelling, but said the alleged victims were afraid of the clout of an entertainer who had rubbed shoulders with royalty and had been honored by the Vatican.
“One of them said memorably: ‘Who’s going to believe us in the witness box against Jimmy Savile? He’s friends with Prince Charles, Princess Diana … he’s been blessed by the pope,'” Connew said. He told The Associated Press that Britain’s strict defamation laws meant that he was left with little to run with. “They had to be prepared to go on the record and face what would’ve been an almost certain libel action from Savile,” he said.
A woman contacted London’s Metropolitan Police to tell her that Savile touched her inappropriately in the 1970s, but she declined to press charges.
Police in Surrey, in southern England, received an eyewitness report about the abuse of a girl at a children’s home in the 1970s. A further investigation turned up three alleged victims of Savile. The first was a fellow resident of the children’s home; the second was a girl who was allegedly assaulted at a specialist hospital in or around 1973; and the third was assaulted in southern England in 1970.
Although police questioned Savile, all three alleged victims declined to press charges and authorities dropped the case in 2009. In a statement published Thursday, chief British prosecutor Keir Starmer said there were “obvious problems” in pursuing a case where victims were reluctant to come forward, where there was no forensic evidence and where there was limited witness testimony, “particularly in relation to allegations which date back a number of years.”
Savile’s name comes up during an investigation into abuse at a children’s home on the Channel Island of Jersey. The inquiry’s chief recently told the Guardian newspaper that “there definitely wasn’t enough to question him at the time.”
Savile dies at age 84 on Oct. 29.
Some 300 potential victims have come forward in the wake of the Savile revelations, according to police. Most of them say they were abused by the late BBC TV host, but some say they were abused by other people, Metropolitan Police said Friday. The force has refused to give a detailed breakdown.