Savile's alleged abuse could have spanned six decades, police say

 

Jimmy Savile's alleged catalogue of abuse could have spanned six decades and included around 60 victims, police said.

The scandal has mushroomed since ITV screened a documentary in which five women alleged they were abused by the late DJ and broadcaster, and now Scotland Yard says there are allegations stretching between 1959 and 2006.

Commander Peter Spindler, head of Scotland Yard's specialist crime investigations, said last night: "We can now confirm that we have received information from the public that suggest allegations against Jimmy Savile span six decades with reports starting in 1959 up to and including 2006.

"Having now had the opportunity to review progress one week on I have revised my estimate of the number of likely victims to be about 60.

"Once again I want to thank those who have come forward and reassure them, and anyone else who contacts us, they will be listened to."

Scotland Yard is pursuing 340 lines of inquiry in the Savile abuse case and so far 12 allegations of sexual offences have been officially recorded but this number is increasing, police said.

Metropolitan Police detectives are in contact with 14 other forces as the number of allegations against the former DJ continues to rise.

Police investigated allegations about Savile's behaviour as far back as 1958, The Sunday Telegraph claimed.

Savile paid officers to drop a case against him for "interfering with young girls" when he was a nightclub manager in Leeds, his former bodyguard told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Savile's former employers, the BBC, have been sucked into the scandal after it emerged that Newsnight abandoned an investigation into the alleged abuse. The organisation has also come under fire with claims that staff were aware of the Jim'll Fix It presenter's behaviour and failed to take action.

According to the Mail on Sunday, Newsnight producers were desperate to see a letter from one of the alleged victims, Fiona, who appeared in the ITV documentary, that would verify her claims that Surrey Police dropped its investigation into her alleged abuse because of Savile's ill-health and "senility".

The letter was not produced, and that was a "contributory factor" in the Newsnight investigation being dropped, the newspaper said.

The newspaper said it was handed a supposed copy of the letter last week by Fiona but described it as "unquestionably a fake", citing the fact that it says she was interviewed by police in 2006 even though the inquiry did not start until May the following year and it contains a Surrey Police crest that was not in use at the time.

The force also issued a statement saying the letter was not genuine, according to the newspaper.

On Friday, BBC director-general George Entwistle offered a "profound and heartfelt apology" to the alleged victims of Savile's sexual abuse as he announced that two inquiries would be launched.

One will look into whether there were any failings over the handling of the abandoned Newsnight piece.

A second independent inquiry will look into the "culture and practices of the BBC during the years Jimmy Savile worked here", Mr Entwistle said.

The Department of Health (DoH) has also been dragged into the scandal over its decision to appoint Savile to lead a "taskforce" at Broadmoor, one of the hospitals where the celebrity allegedly abused patients.

The department will carry out an investigation into how he was given the position while Ken Clarke was health secretary in 1988. The DoH could be sued by victims as it was running the psychiatric hospital at the time, the Guardian reported yesterday.

Mr Clarke, currently a Cabinet minister without portfolio, said: "I have no recollection of ever having met Jimmy Savile and no recollection of these events. The DoH are rightly now investigating to establish the facts."

A spokeswoman for Mr Clarke said that as he only became health secretary in July 1988, Savile's appointment to the role at Broadmoor may have been instigated by someone else.

In a statement, the DoH said: "We will investigate the Department of Health's conduct in apparently appointing Savile to this role.

"Although the framework for child protection and safeguarding for Broadmoor and other special hospital patients changed radically in 1999, we of course want to establish the circumstances and see if any lessons can be learned.

"In hindsight he should very obviously not have been appointed. Had anyone involved in the appointment been aware of allegations of abuse against Savile, we would not have expected him to have been appointed."

Leading mental health charity Rethink said the news highlighted the importance of safety at mental health units and called on current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reinstate a survey which was used to monitor safety on mental health wards but was dropped by the Government.

Jane Harris, from Rethink, said: "The Jimmy Savile allegations have highlighted how important it is to protect vulnerable people on mental health wards from abuse. Yet Government has in fact dropped the only survey that told us how safe people felt in mental health hospitals.

She continued: "We are calling on Jeremy Hunt to immediately reinstate this important survey to help safeguard vulnerable people from abuse."

The ITV documentary on Savile also included allegations that he targeted young hospital patients at Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire and Leeds General Infirmary.

A senior member of staff at the BBC has revealed he questioned Savile over rumours about his private life more than 20 years ago.

Derek Chinnery, who as Radio 1 controller from 1978 to 1985 was Savile's boss, admitted that he quizzed the presenter directly about the rumours of suspected abuse.

Mr Chinnery told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House: "I asked, 'what's all this, these rumours we hear about you Jimmy?'

"And he said, 'that's all nonsense'. There was no reason to disbelieve (Savile)."

Savile worked at Radio 1 from 1969 to 1989 presenting a show of chart songs from previous decades.

Speaking about his acceptance of Savile's denial, Mr Chinnery told the BBC: "It's easy now to say how could you just believe him just like that."

He added: "He was the sort of man that attracted rumours, after all, because he was single, he was always on the move, he was always going around the country."

Tony Blackburn, who presented shows on Radio 1 during Savile's time at the station, said he was "disgusted beyond words" at his former colleague's alleged actions, and said it would be to his "eternal regret" that he was allowed to get away with his behaviour.

In a statement Mr Blackburn said: "I am disgusted beyond words at the vile, despicable actions of Jimmy Savile.

"As the father of a 15-year-old daughter myself, I can only imagine the pain that the young women, men and their families have lived with over the decades.

"I have nothing but admiration for the bravery they have shown in living with this pain and with which they are now able to come forward and speak about what went on.

"Whilst it is a tragedy that Jimmy Savile is not alive to face the justice that he deserves to face, I only hope that the victims are able to get some comfort from the fact that their stories are now being heard and believed."

Mr Blackburn said he had never viewed Savile as a friend, saying: "He was not a nice man, despite how the public viewed him at the peak of his success.

"There were always rumours circulating about him, the problem at the time was that rumour was always hard to translate in to fact.

"Jimmy Savile was a master manipulator of the press and would do what he could to keep his image held high in the public conscience.

"It will be to the eternal regret of me and, I'm sure, so many of my BBC colleagues that he was allowed to get away with these monstrous acts.

"All of us who worked at the BBC during the time of these heinous crimes owe it to the victims to speak to the police and the BBC Investigations Unit and help them in any way we can."

PA

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