Stoke Mandeville and Leeds General hospitals' shock at Jimmy Savile abuse claims

 

Two hospitals described their shock at fresh allegations against TV presenter Sir Jimmy Savile which suggested he preyed on children during visits to wards as part of his catalogue of abuse.

Claims have emerged that Savile groped young patients at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, where he worked as a volunteer fundraiser, while one woman has claimed she saw him molest a brain-damaged hospital patient at Leeds General Hospital.

Nurses at Stoke Mandeville are understood to have dreaded Savile's visits because of his behaviour, and would tell children to stay in bed and pretend to be asleep when he came round.

Former patient Rebecca Owen told BBC News she overheard nurses talking in a way that suggested he also targeted them.

"It was an air of resignation that you had to put up with," she said. "There was some sort of ironic chatter between the nurses about who would be the lucky one to go off to his room."

A spokesman for Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs Stoke Mandeville, said: "We are shocked to hear of the serious allegations about Jimmy Savile.

"At this stage in the proceedings it would not be appropriate for us to conduct our own internal investigation, however we have been contacted by the police this week and are supporting them fully with their inquiries. If their findings suggest that we do need to take further action then we will do so."

A spokesman for Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said: "We are shocked at the nature and extent of the very serious allegations made against Jimmy Savile which were revealed by the Metropolitan Police on Wednesday.

"We have made contact with the police and they will be meeting with us to discuss their investigation.

"The Trust does not have any record of complaints about Jimmy Savile's behaviour made during the time he was a volunteer and charity supporter at Leeds General Infirmary or at any of our other hospitals.

"As a result of the TV documentary and subsequent media publicity we have, however, been contacted by two individuals, one of whom wishes to remain anonymous, about incidents said to have occurred in the 1970s.

"Clearly this whole matter needs to be looked into fully and we will give every co-operation to the police, who are best placed to do so. At this stage we are not aware to what degree their investigation relates to incidents in Leeds."

The hospitals urged anyone with any concerns to contact police.

The raft of allegations against Savile have been branded a "cesspit" by BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten, who said he wants to ensure the corporation's policies are "fit for purpose" and pledged its own independent inquiry will be launched as swiftly as possible after the police investigation.

He has insisted the decision not to continue with a BBC Newsnight investigation into the former Top of the Pops presenter was not because the programme's editor was "leaned on".

Lord Patten also suggested director-general George Entwistle could make a prominent apology - possibly on prime-time TV - on behalf of the BBC once the claims have been unravelled.

"The BBC has in place child protection policies, processes, guidance for us by all staff on and off the premises and independents making programmes for the BBC.

"We've asked the director-general to assure us that those policies are up to date and fit for purpose, that they're effective in protecting minors and under-age children.

"We've also said that we want to be satisfied on the arrangements in place for dealing with sexual harassment, bullying and whistleblowing and we want to be sure that those guidelines that do exist are gold standard and up to date and comply with current best practice."

Savile's headstone has been removed from Woodlands Cemetery in Scarborough after a decision by his family out of "respect to public opinion". It will be sent to landfill and his grave will remain unmarked for now.

Police believe he could have abused up to 25 victims on a national scale over a period of 40 years, and have so far formally recorded a number of criminal allegations including rape and indecent assault.

Greater Manchester Police and Tayside Police became the latest forces to receive complaints.

Greater Manchester said: "As part of an investigation being headed by the Metropolitan Police Service into allegations of sexual abuse made against the late James Savile, Greater Manchester Police has, to date, recorded two separate complaints. These are historic complaints dating back to the 1960s."

Tayside Police said: "A disclosure has been made to Tayside Police regarding an historical incident that happened in the Liverpool area. Full details will be provided to the Metropolitan Police, and support is being offered to the woman concerned."

North Yorkshire Police said today it has also received an historic allegation of sexual abuse against Savile.

The alleged victim, who was a young girl at the time, claimed she was targeted in Scarborough in the late 1980s.

The complaint has now been referred to Scotland Yard.

The Savile Hall conference venue, where the late presenter's possessions were auctioned following his death, will be renamed, its owners said today.

Royal Armouries International said it had decided to rebrand the venue, in Savile's home city of Leeds, "out of respect for public opinion".

Around £320,000 was raised for charity when items including his tracksuits, cigars and Rolls Royce went under the hammer in July.

A spokesman said the hall was so named because Savile was one of Leeds' most famous residents.

He stressed that the company is run independently of the Royal Armouries Museum, with which it shares its site.

A further two allegations against Savile have been received by Lancashire Police, one about a girl then aged 14 in the 1960s in West Yorkshire, and one about a 15-year-old girl in the 1980s in Bedfordshire.

They have both been referred to the Metropolitan Police.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said today no stone should be left unturned in the investigation into the alleged abuse.

Speaking in Bristol he said: "I think these are incredibly serious and disturbing allegations that have been made, we now see a pattern of activity that seems to have been revealed about Jimmy Savile.

"I think the police investigation is incredibly important and that needs to leave no stone unturned in finding out the truth, and what happened.

"There needs to be justice for the victims and what we also need is every institution that had connections with Jimmy Savile to do the most far-reaching investigation of what happened, who knew what, when, about what was happening in that institution and why nothing was done about it.

"I think for the victims, for all those who have such deep concern about what happened, we need answers and we need justice."

June Thornton, a patient at the Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) in 1972, said she saw Savile abuse what she thought was a brain-damaged girl and when she told a nurse about it, she was ignored.

Ms Thornton told ITV News: "In 1972 I was taken into the LGI for an operation on my spine. After the operation I was laid flat on my back and I saw, at the bottom of the ward, to the side of the ward, Jimmy Savile come to a young lady sat in a chair.

"Unfortunately, this lady had I think brain damage because she just sat there and he kissed her and I thought he was a visitor coming to see her. He started rubbing his hands down her arms and then, I don't know of a nice way to put it, but he molested her, he helped himself. She just sat there and couldn't do anything about it.

"When eventually a nurse came to see me, because I was on obs (obstetrics) at that time, I said to her 'that's Jimmy Savile over there', she said 'yes'. I said 'if he comes anywhere near me I'm going to scream the place down'."

Ms Thornton then made a shrugging motion to indicate the nurse's response.

She went on: "I've told them 40 years ago and I swear I am not telling a lie. I feel so inadequate because there was nothing I could do at the time. Had it been now, I think I'd have got up and killed him, but there's nothing I can do."

Caroline Moore claims she was assaulted by Savile at the age of 13 while being treated for spinal injuries at Stoke Mandeville in 1971.

She was in a wheelchair at the time.

Mrs Moore, from Clarkston in East Renfrewshire, told BBC Radio Scotland: "I was outside a ward or a gym and he came out and just rammed his tongue down my throat

"I told my family at the time, they didn't take it seriously because he was such a high-profile character.

"There definitely, without any doubt, must have been more incidents, because I was only one 13-year-old girl," said the 53-year-old.

PA

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