'World famous singer' abused 15-year-old girl after filming Top of the Pops for the BBC

A report has described the show as a ‘picking up opportunity’ and warned young audience members were in ‘moral danger’ 


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The Independent Online

The death of a 15-year-old girl reportedly abused by a "world famous singer" after filming Top of the Pops at the BBC  should be investigated, a friend of the teenager has said. 

Claire McAlpine was apparently picked out of the show’s audience in 1971 and taken for dinner and to a hotel with an unnamed celebrity.

Kelly Gold, a friend of the girl and a fellow member of the show's young audience, told the Sunday Mirror: “Claire’s voice needs to be heard and her death fully investigated.

“Several people involved in abusing her are still alive. She would still be alive today if they [the BBC] had listened to her.”

The circumstances surrounding Claire’s death have resurfaced in recent days following claims Tony Blackburn was sacked by the BBC over suggestions he “seduced” the teenager.

The new allegations follow the discovery of new documents suggesting the veteran DJ had been interviewed regarding the incident in the 1970s, which he refutes.

Mr Blackburn, 73, has strenuously denied the claims and said he is being “scapegoated” by the broadcaster.

Mrs Gold, a Top of the Pops regular who claims to have been sexually assaulted by disgraced sexual predator Jimmy Savile before a show’s recording, said Claire had described her ordeal in her diary.

“She said she had dinner and then had sex with the star that night at his hotel. She was 15 years old. 

“She was very afraid of what would happen next and was not boasting about it. I have always suspected that she was terrified at the thought of being pregnant.”

She told the paper: “Her diary went everywhere with her, it organised her life.”

Mrs Gold, 60, said Ms Alpine’s case had been covered up, but that she “knew what was happening to Claire”. 

“I knew what was happening to all of us, and what everybody who’s been at the inquiry has been saying. 

“It was happening to Claire because she was the new kid on the block. 

“We didn’t go there in the hope that we would be touched up. It wasn’t on our radar.” 

Dame Janet Smith’s report into the BBC’s culture and practises was deeply critical of the BBC’s running of Top of the Pops, saying the show was essentially a “'picking up' opportunity”.

She said the show, which was filmed in London from 1965, was fraught with problems regarding security, and said young audience members were in “moral danger”.

She believed increasing the age limit for audience members from 15 to 16 in 1971 did little to alleviate the problems, and if anything just served to ease the mind of the show’s security.

“The audience members were presumed to be 16 and, if there was any sexual misbehaviour connected with the programme, they were (at least in theory) old enough to consent,” she wrote.

“There is no hint of any concern that some of the young audience would be impressionable and star-struck and would be vulnerable to the advances of anyone… who had acquired a superficial glamour by virtue of association with the programme.

“On the contrary, the concern within the BBC seems to have been to dampen down any adverse publicity and to ensure, so far as possible, that any sexual contact taking place in connection with the show would be consensual because the girls would be over 16.”

She alleged that those working on the show essentially turned a blind eye to what was going on, and although staff were subject to dismissal if they were found to be engaging in sexual activity on the premises no one had been dismissed, despite numerous allegations.

However, according to staff members, the report said: “If a presenter or member of a group wanted to take a girl back to his dressing room, no-one would notice or, if they did, do anything about it.” 

Serious allegations made in 1969 and 1971, the latter being the case of Claire McAlpine, “meant that no one in authority on the programme could claim not to have been aware of the existence of these risks and the need to investigate them,” the report said.

Claire’s case was discussed in detail in the report, published on 25 February.

It said her mother had contacted the broadcaster in 1971 saying her daughter had been invited to the flat of a celebrity’s flat where she alleged that she had been seduced.

The girl committed suicide later that year, and according to the coroner did so “while balance of mind disturbed”.

Dame Smith concluded that the investigation had not been ‘conducted in a satisfactory way’.

A second, earlier, “wake-up call” was also discussed in the report, regarding Harry Goodwin, resident stills photographer on Top of the Pops, who was allegedly taking pornographic photos of girls after the show.

When confronted with the allegations in 1969, Goodwin  said “he would do the same again next week when the show was at Lime Grove where he could do as he liked”, a response which was recorded on cassette.

Other recordings reportedly show the photographer in “very poor light”.

In one he was speaking about young girls attending Top of the Pops, in which he said, he would not “do it” in his dressing room, but continued: “If you want to do it you can take ‘em into Wood Lane and f**k ‘em outside there.”

He apparently also spoke about taking girls to hotels, and despite these allegations and recordings his contract was renewed by the BBC.

During Jimmy Savile’s time as a regular host on the show the notorious paedophile was at his most prolific, using his “association with Top of the Pops as bait for young girls,” the review says.

The presenter would “indulge in sexual touching while working on the set” and “used his dressing room as a haven of privacy where he could indulge in sexual activity”.

According to the report, which outlines 19 counts of sexual assault by Savile during his time on the show, he would “invite young people whom he hardly knew to the room and would touch them sexually.”

Dame Smith said no one was responsible for the safety of the young audience members and in “the testosterone-laden atmosphere” child protection was not an issue. 

In her damning findings it was concluded that the BBC prioritised the running of a successful show over the welfare of its young and vulnerable audience.