"Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile": now the spotlight is on those who turned a blind eye

Our critic reviews the ITV programme last night that has generated so much news this week, with allegations of systemic child abuse over decades

Share

"I'm afraid the jury isn't out any more," said a distressed Esther Rantzen towards the end of last night's Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile, an ITV investigation into allegations of abuse by the disc jockey.

She had been making the point that this was a trial without a defence lawyer, but her demeanour suggested that she thought it would have been an impossible brief if there had been one.

The witnesses, she said, were too matter-of-fact, too consistent with each other, too clear in their memories of what had occurred. I suspect most viewers will have agreed.

And it wasn't just Savile that was in the dock but a set of social attitudes that now looked irresponsible at best, complicit in abuse at worst. "We all colluded with this, didn't we?" asked Rantzen. "We made him into the Jimmy Savile who couldn't be touched." Given what we'd heard about his pawing eagerness to be touched it was an unfortunate phrase. But the charge stuck.

The testimony of those who said they had been Savile's victims was grim enough – very credible accounts of star-struck children coaxed and pressed into escalating and uninvited sexual contact. And Savile's life-long willingness to gurn and leer at any camera nearby had provided the film's makers with a limitless supply of visual aids to help us reconstruct these scenes in the mind.

"Did he touch you intimately?" asked Mark Williams-Thompson, the former policeman who has spent a year researching the story. As his interviewee answered, you saw Savile, his eyes rolling in that cartoonish mask of lubricity behind which he concealed the real thing.

These girls either feared that they wouldn't be believed if they told – or had discovered for certain that they wouldn't be. One of those who complained about being touched by Savile during his regular visits to Duncroft Manor (an approved school which he seems to have treated as a private bordello) had been put in isolation and told she couldn't come out until she retracted her "filthy" accusations.

Savile's carefully groomed image as a mascot of do-goodery made it almost inconceivable that he might be doing very bad things indeed. But almost more shocking was the evidence of the men who'd actually seen this happening.

Wilfred De'ath, then a young BBC producer, stumbled through an account in which self-contradiction followed self-contradiction. "It was all hearsay," he said about the gossip, but then added: "He never attempted to hide this predilection."

One of the people Savile didn't hide it from, it became clear, was Wilfred De'ath, who found himself out on the town with Savile and a 12-year-old girl. The next day, when he phoned Savile in his hotel bedroom, it became clear the girl had spent the night with the DJ. De'ath seemed more disturbed that he had been required to make small talk with a child, than by the fact that a BBC star might have committed statutory rape. He didn't report it, he said, because "I wasn't a very strong person".

Alan Leeke, a Manchester-based journalist who went to interview Savile at his home on one occasion, didn't report it either. He said he saw Savile emerge from a bedroom to casually rinse himself down, having just had sex with a teenage girl. Leeke left soon afterwards. "I hadn't got a story," he said. "It was pretty plain he didn't want me there."

That extraordinary line – "I hadn't got a story" – was perhaps most telling of all. The crime was effectively invisible because no one cared to make a fuss. And that made Savile so confident he hardly bothered to hide. Well it's a story now, and a very convincing one, too.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A CCTV camera is seen in front of a large poster opposite in central London  

Home Office is creating more powers to turn everyone into suspects – but leave us no safer

Shami Chakrabarti
 

David Mellor has been exposed as an awful man, but should he have been?

Simon Kelner
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches