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Jimmy Savile, fixer of dreams, dies at 84

The DJ, television presenter and fundraiser is found dead two days before his 85th birthday

The boadcaster Sir Jimmy Savile, best known for the popular television programme Jim'll Fix It, was found dead at his home in Leeds yesterday. He would have celebrated his 85th birthday tomorrow. Police found his body after being called to his flat on the edge of Roundhay Park at 12.10pm. His nephews, Roger Foster and Ian McKenna, said their uncle had died peacefully in his sleep.

Tributes poured in for the former DJ, TV presenter and charity fundraiser, who was the first host of the BBC's Top of the Pops in 1964 and also co-presented the final show in 2006. DJ Dave Lee Travis told Sky News that Savile was a "larger than life" character. "We are all going to be worse off without him around," he said. The broadcaster Stuart Hall told BBC Radio 5 Live that Savile was "unique" but "a loner".

The BBC director general Mark Thompson said he was "very sad" to hear of Savile's death. "From Top of the Pops to Jim'll Fix It, Jimmy's unique style entertained generations of BBC audiences," he said. "Like millions of viewers and listeners, we shall miss him greatly."

An elderly woman who had been visiting a friend who lived in Savile's block of flats said she had seen him in a restaurant about two weeks ago, looking ill. "He really should not have been out," she said. "You could tell he was really ill yet he was still dressed in his string vest in a smart restaurant."

Former colleague Tony Blackburn told Sky News that Savile was a "big, over-the-top personality", who would be best remembered for his charity work. The keen runner, whom the Queen knighted in 1990, ran more than 200 marathons and raised millions of pounds for good causes.

Famous for his tracksuits, chunky gold jewellery, tinted glasses and cigars, Savile was born in Leeds in 1926, the youngest of seven children. He worked as a miner as a teenager and damaged his spine after an underground explosion brought down the coal face on his back. He was told he would never walk again.

He raised £20m for the creation of the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in 1983, and was a volunteer at hospital. A spokeswoman for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, said Savile was "tireless in his attempts to fundraise for the hospital" and would be "sorely missed".

Savile, who was said to treasure a picture that the photographer Barry Wilkinson took of the DJ and the Beatles at the Gaumont Theatre in Bradford in 1963, enjoyed a varied career. It included a largely unsuccessful stint as a professional wrestler.

The DJ started his radio career at Radio Luxembourg before joining Radio 1. During his stint as host of the TV show Jim'll Fix It, which aired between 1975 and 1994, he made the dreams of more than 1,500 children come true. Among them was the violinist Nigel Kennedy who, aged 11, performed on TV.