Detectives investigating Jimmy Savile missed vital opportunity to prosecute him, report reveals

Officers failed to pursue at least eight 'obvious' lines of inquiry into claims made by one of his victims

A confidential police report reveals how detectives missed a vital opportunity to prosecute Jimmy Savile and were suspected of pressuring one of his victims to drop her complaint against the serial sex offender.

The disturbing revelations come after an 18-month battle by Sussex Police to prevent the full version of its internal review, dubbed ‘Operation Baseball’, from being made public. But a recent ruling by the Information Commissioners Office ordered the force to issue a redacted copy of the review, which was done in 2012. And the documents, provided to The Independent on Sunday, highlights serious failings by detectives.

A woman had contacted Sussex Police on 3 March 2008, claiming she had been indecently assaulted by Savile in 1970, when she was 22-years-old. She was visited by two detectives later that day and, according to a note by one of them, a detective sergeant whose name is redacted, was “given time to consider options open to her.” The very next day she decided not to pursue her complaint.

The internal review into Sussex Police’s handling of the complaint reveals how, in a report made to a senior officer [detective inspector], officers told how they had “advised” the victim that any investigation “would involve contacting witnesses including her ex-husband and work friends from nearly 40 years ago. We discussed the fact that questioning Jimmy was not simply as case of allegation made and arrest but that the case would need fully investigating and the allegation corroborated/supported before Jimmy would ever be approached.”

The review stated, with the cooperation of the victim, “it would have been possible to secure some corroborative evidence which would have in turn provided sufficient grounds to arrest and interview Savile on suspicion of indecent assault.”

Yet detectives failed to pursue at least eight “obvious” lines of inquiry “immediately available” to them and “investigation reports portray a lack of enthusiasm for the investigation,” with “no meaningful attempt to secure any corroborative evidence,” it says.

It “appears that the investigating officers were not minded to pursue the obvious lines of enquiry with any particular vigour and it could be argued that they were presented to the victim as something of an obstacle to any investigation.”

The review adds: “It does appear that the officers have not engaged with her in a way which was likely to reassure her and encourage her to pursue her complaint.” The victim is described as a “woman who could have been persuaded either way in terms of supporting a police investigation.”

While she may have made the decision alone, “it seems possible the stance taken by investigating officers may have influenced her considerations.”

And the review warns if she dropped her complaint as “a consequence of coercion or undue influence on the part of the investigators then it is evident that she has been let down and the lack of subsequent investigation is inexcusable.”

The investigation was dropped despite officers knowing that “another matter involving the same suspect was being investigated by a neighbouring force,” it adds.

Her allegation “should have been recorded as a crime from the outset” and the advice she was given by detectives “appears to contain negative suggestions rather than reflecting a willingness to investigate her complaint and seek to obtain other evidence which would corroborate her account.”

Despite the damning criticisms, an “addendum” to the review produced after a meeting of senior officers in October 2012 claims: “the victim has expressed total satisfaction over the police handling of her allegation” and “has no complaint to make.”

A referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), amid concern over the conduct of the two detectives (a detective sergeant and detective constable, known only as DS and DC), was made last November. And a report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) last year found it was “difficult not to conclude that the officers had, even if unintentionally, dissuaded her from pursuing her allegation.”

The detectives concerned could face disciplinary action, with the IPCC confirming yesterday that it is mounting an investigation. In a statement to The IoS, an IPCC spokesperson said: “The IPCC is independently investigating the conduct of Sussex Police detectives over their handling of a reported indecent assault carried out by Jimmy Savile in 1970.” They added: “The investigation is examining interactions between Sussex Police officers and the victim and whether all lines of enquiry were properly pursued.”

In a statement, a Sussex Police spokesperson said: “In June this year we were informed by the IPCC that they will be conducting an independent investigation into that 2008 investigation, with which we will fully co-operate.” They added: “Our priority continues to be professional and compassionate, with a focus on achieving the best outcome for victims whilst respecting their wishes.”

This is the latest IPCC investigation relating to Savile, with a former West Yorkshire inspector already under scrutiny over claims he “acted on behalf” of the paedophile. He is accused of intervening on his behalf by contacting Surrey Police detectives before they interviewed Savile in 2009 regarding allegations he had sexually abused young girls. And earlier this year, North Yorkshire Police referred itself to the watchdog over the way in which it recorded and responded to reports it received against Savile and one of his associates.