‘I don’t feel like there’s a victory in any way, shape or form,’ says acquitted DJ Dave Lee Travis
Jury believes DLT’s denials of 12 sex charges, and his insistence that women made up stories. But his legal battles are not over
Of all the comic creations that lampooned Dave Lee Travis over the years, the DJ preferred the one by Ronnie Barker. In a sketch that gently mocked Top of The Pops presenters of the 1970s and 1980s, Barker’s character Dave Lav Trellis hooked his arms around two young women as he presented the show. “And that’s exactly what I used to do,” said the real DLT a year before he was arrested.
During a month that has systematically dismantled his persona as a hairy, cuddly, "tactile" star in a golden age of radio, DLT was accused of doing much more. The prosecution had claimed that in a pattern of behaviour that repeated itself over 30 years, he targeted young women, many in the first flush of their careers.
One of his alleged victims had claimed that the first sign of an attack was the smell of the DJ's pungent aftershave as he moved behind his victim. He was accused of shoving his hands up women's skirts, touching their breasts and pressing himself closely against them.
A jury believed his strong denials and claims that the 16 women who gave evidence against him at the trial had fabricated their stories. He was a touchy-feely man who loved women, who in turn loved his harmless playfulness, he said. As he faced the cameras outside Southwark Crown Court after being cleared of 12 sex charges by a jury, he said he would now try to get his good name back.
First, he faces a possible retrial over the remaining two charges for which the jury could not reach a verdict. "I'm not over the moon about any of this today," he said. "I don't feel like there's a victory in any way, shape or form."
Dave Lee Travis, pictured in 1981, was part of the vanguard of new Radio 1 DJs (Getty Images) Despite the protestations of the judge, the trial was not just of DLT but of a different era and culture at the BBC and wider society during Travis's long career, which was brought to a halt by his arrest last year. He was part of the vanguard of new - and, for several years, all-male DJs - who joined the corporation as it shed its fuddy-duddy image in the face of the challenge from pirate radio. At times, his trial has been a period piece and a reminder of the one-time power of Travis and his colleagues.
Travis was accused of one attack at a Showaddywaddy gig where he made his way on to the stage and created a racket on the drums. Another of the alleged attacks was claimed to have happened as the DJ announced a song by the Smurfs on Top of the Pops.
Travis, who denied the attacks, claimed that his flirty behaviour was normal practice at any institution of the era. A picture was painted of his workplace as a puerile playground where he and other Radio 1 staffers had sugar-lump fights and put cups of water over the door to catch the unwary. Travis spoke of how they would set each others' scripts on fire or place stinkbombs under the toilet.
Born David Patrick Griffin - and tried under that name - the DJ was one of the pioneers of Radio 1 after it was launched in 1967 to capture the youth market following the demise of pirate radio after it was declared illegal by the government.
He moved up through the ranks to become one of the station's biggest names. He took over the weekly teatime day show in 1976 and had already secured the status of a "demigod", according to one of the women who gave evidence against him. Two years later he took over the prestigious breakfast show slot from Noel Edmonds, rebranding himself the Hairy Cornflake, the same year as the alleged assault on the 15-year-old girl at the Showaddywaddy gig.
Travis, who claimed in court that he was a tactile man who liked a hug, was accused of "jiggling" the breasts of a 24-year-old BBC newsreader while she was introducing Woman's Hour in the early 1980s. When the allegations were first made public, decades later, Travis dismissed them in colourful terms.
He was also accused of groping a woman while dancing the Lambada at two British Airways parties in the 1990s.
Travis's end at Radio 1 came in a major shake-up of the network shortly after Paul Whitehouse and Harry Enfield created "Smashie and Nicey", an excruciating double-act that brought together the worst excesses of the DLT generation. He quit Radio 1 with an on-air announcement in 1993 in opposition to an overhaul by the station's new controller, Matthew Bannister.
"Changes are being made here which go against my principles and I just cannot agree with them," he said. In reality, the old guard - including Travis, with a programme from a disappearing age of inane chatter and snooker on the radio - were moved on to make way for a new generation of edgier presenters.
He continued his association with the BBC for another eight years with the World Service request programme, A Jolly Good Show. In one of the more surprising character references, the Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that the programme had given her a lifeline during her long periods of house arrest.
He was still presenting, at Magic Radio, when he became the fourth person arrested under Operation Yewtree, the inquiry sparked by the revelations of Jimmy Savile's life as a predatory paedophile. A woman who claimed she was attacked in 1976 was the first. Travis stood outside his bungalow in Mentmore, Buckinghamshire, to deny the first of the allegations against him, but more kept coming. After his first court appearance, Travis was clearly angry. He told The Independent: "If I could stand here for an hour-and-a-half, I would. I either talk for a long time or I don't and at the moment I'm not talking."
At his trial, he groaned when his alleged victims gave evidence against him; women he claimed were motivated by money. He admitted at his trial that he had, once or twice, been unfaithful to his Swedish wife, Marianna, to whom he has been married for more than 40 years. But his denials of the attacks remained steadfast.
"You can't sexually assault a woman and expect people would not say anything," he told the court. "I would fully expect to be kicked out. This is my reputation I have spent 50 years building up - I'm not going to let it all go to pot over something a kid made up."
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