The comedian Freddie Starr has offered to become the first household name to be questioned by police over sexual abuse allegations in connection with the Jimmy Savile case.
Starr, 69, said he was prepared to speak to police on Monday, following claims by one of Savile’s victims that the comedian groped her in a BBC dressing room when she was 15 years old. He vehemently denies the claims made by Karin Ward, who was an audience member on the BBC show Clunk Click 40 years ago.
Ms Ward, who said she was repeatedly assaulted by Savile, also claims that she saw Gary Glitter having sex with an underage girl in Savile’s dressing room.
Speaking outside his home, Starr said: “I have said from the word go that I wanted to be interviewed. Everybody, the press, the police, people at the BBC, they knew that things were going on with Jimmy Savile. Everybody is guilty of this. You can put the finger on everybody at the BBC.”
A spokeswoman for Starr said: “Freddie is prepared to be interviewed by the police, but his lawyer has been in touch with the person that is heading the investigation and they have no intention of questioning him.” Scotland Yard declined to comment.
The Met is leading the investigation into accusations of abuse, which now involve about 300 potential victims. Police are said to be on the verge of arresting up to a dozen household names accused of sex abuse, including a soap actor and a DJ. But officers admit that chances were missed to arrest Savile in the 1970s, 1980s and even four years ago when he was accused of abuse by children and adults.
Speaking on the BBC’s Newswatch programme last night, Peter Horrocks, the corporation’s director of global news, said he was “appalled and deeply embarrassed” at how long it took for the stories of Savile’s victims to be aired.
It also emerged that the Newsnight editor Peter Rippon suddenly reversed his position on an investigation into Savile’s sexual abuse a day after the BBC’s Christmas schedules were published, featuring glowing tribute programmes about the personality.
New evidence about Rippon’s change of heart over the planned exposé of Savile’s activities has increased suspicions that pressure was put on the Newsnight editor from above to drop the potentially explosive report.
On 25 November last year Rippon sent an email saying he was still very enthusiastic about the investigation. The BBC Christmas schedules, which included three tributes to Savile, were published on 29 November and on 30 November Rippon backtracked, sending another email to the team working on the story saying he was no longer sure it was strong enough to run. The next day he cancelled editing on the report.
Rippon, who has stepped aside from his role, maintained that his change of heart was because the programme had been unable to stand up one element of the story. Savile’s reputation for luring young women to a cottage in Allt na Reigh in Glencoe, Scotland, appears to have reached Royal circles. It emerged that in 1999 Prince Charles sent the presenter, then 73, a Christmas card with the message: “Give my love to your ladies in Scotland!”