Esther Rantzen: Rumours Followed Jimmy Savile

ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen has said she believes five women who have made sexual abuse allegations against Sir Jimmy Savile and claims there were always rumours about the TV presenter.

The 72-year-old, who took part in an ITV documentary which will claim Sir Jimmy sexually abused schoolgirls, said the allegations involved similar attacks when the alleged victims were young.

She told Sky News: "For the first time there's more than one single child complaining. There are five adult women producing very similar statements about the way they were attacked.

"You see, one child's word against the word of a television icon, one who was renowned for raising money for charity, who knew everyone from the Prime Minister to Princess Diana, who was knighted by the Queen and the Pope, I think no single complainant dared speak out before.

"There were always rumours that he behaved very inappropriately, sexually, with children."

ITV has defended the documentary, despite an angry reaction from the late DJ's family.

Roger Foster, Sir Jimmy's nephew, said he was "disgusted and disappointed" at the allegations in Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile, which include claims that he abused girls in his Rolls-Royce and at BBC Television Centre.

"The guy hasn't been dead for a year yet and they're bringing these stories out. It could affect his legacy, his charity work, everything. I'm very sad and disgusted," he said.

"I just don't understand the motives behind this. I just think it's very, very sad you can say these things after someone's died and the law says you can't defend yourself when you're dead."

But an ITV spokesman said: "This documentary is the result of an in-depth investigation into long-standing allegations of serious and widespread sexual misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile.

"Because of the very serious nature of the claims made by several interviewees in relation to this, particular care and consideration was of course given to the decision to produce and broadcast this programme.

"The programme takes full account of the fact that Sir Jimmy is not here to defend himself against these claims."

The former BBC Radio 1 DJ, who died in October last year two days before his 85th birthday, was famous for TV shows like Jim'll Fix It and Top Of The Pops.

The ITV programme, presented by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, features contributions from several women who claim Sir Jimmy was a sexual predator who assaulted them while they were under age.

One woman alleges that she was raped by the DJ and another says she was asked to perform a sex act on him.

The documentary also includes a 2009 recording in which he defends Gary Glitter, who was jailed for four months in the UK in 1999 for downloading child porn and later jailed for child sex offences in Vietnam.

Sir Jimmy's former PA acknowledged that he liked to be photographed with young "bits of crumpet" but said he would never jeopardise his career by taking it any further.

"I never had an inkling of him misbehaving or taking advantage of impressionable young girls," Janet Cope, who worked with the presenter for 40 years, said.

"He was far too savvy, knowing how reputations like his could easily be trashed overnight, and so to my knowledge, he never once stepped out of line.

"Jim often said it only took one girl to blab to the newspapers for money, and a celebrity like him could be wrecked for ever."

ITV said the programme, due to air later this week, will allege he preyed on teenagers whom he invited to appear on his TV shows.

One woman, who was 14 at the time, tells how she met Sir Jimmy at a school in Surrey in 1974 and he assaulted her in his caravan which was parked in the school grounds.

In the recording about Glitter - whose real name is Paul Gadd - Sir Jimmy reportedly says: "Now Gary, all he did was to take his computer into PC World to get it repaired.

"They went into the hard drive, saw all these dodgy pictures and told the police and the police then 'Oh we've got a famous person ... Oh my goodness, yeah we'll have them'.

"But Gary has not sold 'em, has not tried to sell 'em, not tried to show them in public or anything like that. It were for his own gratification. Whether it was right or wrong is, of course, it's up to him as a person. But they didn't do anything wrong but they are then demonised."

The BBC responded to reports that inappropriate behaviour by Sir Jimmy was an "open secret" at the corporation by saying it found no evidence of any misconduct by the broadcaster.

"The BBC has conducted extensive searches of its files to establish whether there is any record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. No such evidence has been found," it said in a statement.

"Whilst the BBC condemns any behaviour of the type alleged in the strongest terms, in the absence of evidence of any kind found at the BBC that corroborates the allegations that have been made, it is simply not possible for the corporation to take any further action."

The BBC also explained why an investigation into Sir Jimmy by BBC2's Newsnight was never broadcast.

Newsnight editor Peter Rippon said: "It is absolutely untrue that the Newsnight investigation was dropped for anything other than editorial reasons."

Surrey Police confirmed it investigated an historic allegation of indecent assault against Sir Jimmy in 2007.

The allegation was said to have occurred at a children's home in Staines in the 1970s and the TV presenter was interviewed under caution.

The matter was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which advised there was insufficient evidence to take any further action.

Film-maker Louis Theroux, who tried to unravel Sir Jimmy's private life on-screen, said his thoughts were "with the victims".

He said: "What is especially disturbing is the nature of the alleged abuse - the fact that it apparently took place repeatedly, in the workplace and at a school he was visiting, and that it may have been known to his bosses and co-workers.

"My thoughts are with the victims. I hope they find peace."