The drip of abuse allegations grew slowly at first, steadily gathering momentum until the flood of accusations surrounding one of the nation's favourite broadcasters had prompted not one but two inquiries, engulfed two hospitals, including the country's most secure psychiatric unit, and embroiled 14 police forces across the UK, from Jersey to Tayside. Fresh and lurid claims about Jimmy Savile emerge on a daily basis. Last night, with calm brevity the Metropolitan Police released the breathtaking fact that their inquiries now span 47 years of the TV personality's life and that there are at least 60 victims.
It became increasingly clear last night that regardless of the outcome of various inquiries, Savile is not only Britain's highest-profile sex abuser but also one of its most prolific. Scotland Yard confirmed that while it has officially recorded 12 allegations of sexual offences, it is investigating some 340 potential lines of inquiry which involve 14 other police forces across the country. If only a fraction of the victims' claims are substantiated, they would put Savile on a par with the notorious "black cab" rapist Jon Worboys – regarded as Britain's worst sex offender after drugging and abusing upwards of 100 women.
The shockwaves radiating from the welter of allegations have already damaged many of the institutions with which the presenter and charity fundraiser was associated: on Friday, the BBC hastily announced two investigations after claims Savile preyed on girls at the BBC while management remained indifferent.
More damagingly, statements suggested that there were many who knew about Savile, and appeared to look the other way: former BBC director David Nicolson told The Sun that a BBC boss had said "That's the way it is" and "That's Jimmy" after he reported that Savile was having sex with a young girl in his dressing room. The actress Julie Fernandez told BBC radio said she was groped by Savile when she appeared on Jim'll Fix It aged 14. Another woman claimed Savile was told to leave a Leeds care home in the 1970s after staff found him in a bedroom with her, aged 12.
In some cases the claims were beyond disturbing: Savile groped sick and infirm children – disabled, unconscious even – at Leeds General Infirmary and Stoke Mandeville hospitals.
Last night Pete Saunders, chief executive of the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), raised the question whether Savile could have been part of a paedophile ring. "It's hard to accept that nobody else wasn't in some kind of collusion with him. Who gave him a flat at Stoke Mandeville hospital? Who gave him access to vulnerable children in children's wards? It doesn't bear thinking about." The former health secretary Ken Clarke sought to distance himself from the decision yesterday.
It also emerged that at Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, where Savile volunteered for decades and was accused of abusing a 17-year-old, he had a key to its secure unit and was appointed to a 1988 "taskforce" overseeing the hospital when management were dismissed.
The claims emerging from hospitals highlighted how cunningly Savile used his charity work to abuse girls – claims made last week by those at the Duncroft School in Surrey and the Haut de la Garenne children's home in Jersey.
Others have been forced to defend their actions in relation to Savile's activities. Esther Rantzen, founder of Childline, said: "Unfortunately, when I heard rumours about Jimmy Savile some time ago, at no stage did I ever come across a child or witness or an adult survivor who actually told me of abuse by Jimmy Savile. There's a tremendous difference between evidence which will stand up in court and which can be used as a basis for a police investigation and a general rumour. There was absolutely no evidence that we could take anywhere or investigate or explore in any way."
Last night, responding to claims that a woman had warned her about Savile, she added that she had no recollection of the conversation.
Stuart Syvret, a former health minister in Jersey who exposed allegations of child abuse there in 2007, said: "These people have the knowledge on each other; they know each other's dirt and that acts as the insurance policy, as it were, for protection and secrecy. Undoubtedly Savile will have known senior police officers, other celebrities, people in the BBC. It's the glue that holds the child abuse cover-up together, that these people protect each other." He said he "would be profoundly surprised" if there weren't a paedophile ring within the BBC.
As Savile's £4,000 gravestone was destroyed by his family "to respect public opinion" last Wednesday, charities that had benefited from his prodigious fundraising – an estimated £45m – rushed to distance themselves from him.
The Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust would not comment on claims it was considering giving away millions in its reserves to victims of child abuse. Leeds University, which received hundreds of thousands of pounds to fund medical scholarships, said it was discussing whether the money should be handed back.
The damage continues to radiate: questions over the conduct of other BBC celebrities within the corporation during the 1960s and 1970s were raised after a woman claimed she may have become pregnant by the DJ John Peel during a three-month affair when she was 15 and he was 30. The BBC said it would reconsider naming a building after him if the allegations were proved.
Perhaps most damagingly, there is a growing taint on the BBC, a suspicion that it harboured sexual predators and gropers who were not checked or punished by senior management. The former Radio 1 DJ Liz Kershaw and presenter Sandi Toksvig also said they were groped at the BBC. Lord Patten, the BBC Trust chairman, handed newspapers an instant headline when he characterised the situation as "a cesspit". Grant Shapps, Conservative Party chairman, claimed on Question Time it "seems unimaginable" that BBC staff were unaware of the allegations.
Moves for reparation were being prepared in earnest at the end of last week. Victims had started contacting solicitors – and the media consultant Max Clifford – with inquiries about whether they had a right to compensation. Lawyers suggest the Department of Health – which ran Broadmoor – and the health trusts could be sued to the tune of millions. Liz Dux, a personal injury specialist, said she was preparing claims and the BBC and hospitals would be liable as they had a "vicarious" responsibility on the grounds that they both have a duty of care to anyone who came into contact with their staff or agents.
She added that while the claims were legally "out of time" as they were more than three years old, a court could still order a trial because of the weight of evidence and the nature of the offences.
On Friday, the BBC's director-general, George Entwistle, apologised "wholeheartedly", but in vain, to Savile's victims as he announced two "forensic and soul-searching" investigations into the scandal. The first is into why the original Newsnight investigation into Savile was shelved, and the other into whether culture and practice at the BBC at the time enabled him to carry out the sexual abuse.
Mr Entwistle said: "It is the victims, these women who were subject to criminal actions, who must be central in our thoughts. And it is the fundamentally criminal nature of many of these allegations that has made supporting the police my first priority. But the BBC will not avoid confronting the events of its past to understand what happened and to try to ensure that nothing of this kind can happen ever again at the BBC." In truth, it will have no choice in the matter.
Dozens of women, and some men, have come forward to claim that they were assaulted by Savile. They include:
Women appearing in ITV documentary
"Angie", who first had intercourse with Savile when she was 15, and then on a "number of occasions", said he never used a condom.
"Val" said Savile sexually assaulted her dozens of times and once had intercourse.
"Fiona" said Savile came to her school in his Rolls-Royce where he assaulted her. She says girls knew what was expected of them in return for being invited to his Clunk Click TV show recordings.
"Charlotte" claims Savile put his hand on her breast when she was at a special needs school, and that she was put in an isolation unit for "two or three days" after she told staff.
"Sarah" said when she was 14 Savile put his tongue in her mouth.
Duncroft School pupils
Karin Ward claims she was abused in the presenter's dressing room aged 14, and he used cigarettes, perfume and food to attract girls.
Toni Townsend claims Savile groped her in a sexual way and urged her and a friend to visit him at weekends.
Bebe Roberts, now 62, claimed she was assaulted when she was 15.
Alison Pink, now Steven George following an operation, said Savile thrust his hand up her nightgown while she was a patient at Broadmoor.
A boy said he was assaulted by Savile in Jersey while he was at the Haut de la Garenne children's home, aged 10.
Caroline Moore said that while in a wheelchair being treated for spinal injuries at Stoke Mandeville, aged 13, "he just rammed his tongue down my throat".
Jane Thornton – then a nurse at Leeds hospital where Savile worked as a porter – said she saw him molest a brain-damaged patient recovering from an operation.
Laura, a former patient at Stoke Mandeville, said Savile would do ward rounds and take children to his private room.
Tracey Brown, 39, from Milton Keynes, claims Savile thrust his tongue in her mouth when she was 15 as she recovered from an operation at Stoke Mandeville hospital.
Dee Coles said she and her friend were forced to perform sex acts on Savile in a caravan while on holiday in Jersey.
Deborah Cogger, now 52, claimed Savile kissed and groped her at a residential school, when she was 14.
Jill, a 61-year-old former model, claimed Savile molested her in his caravan when she was 20.
An unnamed woman claimed she got pregnant after Savile raped her aged 16. She had an illegal abortion without painkillers.
Kim Anderson claims Savile lunged at her and kissed her when she met him on a tour bus.
Top Of The Pops audience dancer Claire McAlpine died of an overdose, aged 15. In her diary she named showbusiness personalities who she claims "used" her. The allegations were dismissed both within and outside the BBC, and Jimmy Savile denied having known her.
Former stage-school pupil and child actress Katrina Rose, now 51, said she was attacked in Savile's flat aged 14.
A male teacher has claimed he was assaulted by the DJ, aged 12.
The actress Julie Fernandez, who appeared in The Office, said in a radio interview that she was molested by Savile in a BBC Studio after being invited to appear on Jim'll Fix It.