BBC denies cover-up over claims Jimmy Savile targeted underage girls

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Up to 10 women have accused the family entertainer Sir Jimmy Savile of being a sexual "predator" who targeted them when they were underage, with several saying they were too scared to speak out while he was alive.

The allegations, which include rape, come as the BBC has been forced to deny the abuse was "an open secret" during his time as a television presenter and that it dropped a Newsnight investigation to protect its reputation.

An ITV documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile screening on Wednesday, features a series of allegations of sexual assault on girls as young as 14 by the former Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It presenter who died last year at the age of 84.

The incidents are alleged to have taken place in hotels, in his Rolls-Royce and even in BBC Television Centre. One alleged victim said she was groped by Sir Jimmy when he visited the Duncroft Approved School in Surrey in 1974. When she angrily complained, two staff members dragged her outside and demanded she retract her statement and apologise.

Another girl from the school was abused in the back of his Rolls-Royce. "I now know it was wrong and I can still get very angry about it," she said.

One woman said Sir Jimmy had assaulted her "probably dozens of times" starting when she was 15. "Looking back I think, 'Oh my God, he actually raped me'. I was very young and he was in his 40s," she said.

She said: "I think people need to know that there was another side to him and it was quite a dark side. He was a predator on young girls." Val added she was "too frightened" to speak out when he was alive, saying: "There was always that air that he had power and that he had contacts and you wouldn't want to mess with him."

Sir Jimmy was never charged with abuse during his lifetime. One complaint was made to Surrey Police in 2007, but no further action was taken. The TV personality's family have defended him, with his nephew Roger Foster saying he was "disgusted and disappointed" about the allegations when while his uncle could not defend himself.

Sue Thompson, a newsroom assistant at BBC Leeds when Sir Jimmy was presenting the Speakeasy programme in 1978, said she walked in on the presenter fondling a 14-year-old. "He had his left arm up her skirt and … he was kissing her."

Yesterday the BBC said it searched its files for allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy during his time at the BBC but "no such evidence has been found". A spokesman said: “Whilst the BBC condemns any behaviour of the type alleged in the strongest terms, in the absence of evidence of any kind found at the BBC that corroborates the allegations that have been made it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action.”

The corporation also denied it had shelved a Newsnight investigation after uncovering information about abuse. The BBC said the charge was "absolutely untrue".

One victim, Angie, who also went under a pseudonym, lost her virginity to Sir Jimmy when she was 15. She said: "I was very naïve, I had no idea what was happening. He shouldn't be doing that to 15 year olds. It's quite repulsive what he did to me and other girls."

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