Late British television presenter Jimmy Savile sexually abused hundreds of children over a period of 54 years, according to a report published by UK police. The attacks took place in dozens of schools, hospitals and television studios across the country.
Savile, who died in 2011, was a hugely popular radio and television personality. He presented long-running music show Top of the Pops and for nearly 20 years fronted Jim’ll Fix It, a programme in which children wrote letters to Savile asking him to make their wishes come true. His charity work also boosted his public profile and he was knighted by the Queen in 1990. He used his fame, charity work and connections with the higher echelons of society as a smokescreen for his offending, taking advantage of his reputation to gain access to schools and hospitals, where he would sexually assault the young and vulnerable. His crimes only emerged into the public domain last year, when a number of sexual assault allegations became the subject of a television documentary.
The police report issued on Friday said that Savile’s “offending footprint was vast, predatory and opportunistic”. It exposes offences spanning between 1955 and 2009 and states that of the 450 people who came forward to make allegations, 73 percent were children at the time of the offence. Savile committed 214 crimes. He raped 34 people, including 28 children. While most of his victims were aged between 13 and 16, the youngest was an eight-year-old boy and the oldest a 47-year-old woman. Some 57 of the alleged offences took place in hospitals, 33 in television and radio studios and 14 in schools.
Peter Watt from the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children is amazed at just how many people he abused.
“I think we have been shocked at just the sheer scale at what Jimmy Savile was able to get away with over nearly six decades, the hundreds and hundreds of victims. But I think the one thing that sticks out for me, this was not someone who casually got away with something, this was a nasty serial perpetrator of child sex abuse,” said Watt.
Detective Sergeant David Gray, who led the police inquiry said “He has spent every minute of every working day thinking about this. Whenever an opportunity came along he took it. He picked on vulnerable victims and he was clever enough to choose people who he knew would not speak out.”
Police did question Savile in 2009 over accusations made by several women two years earlier. Savile told them that such allegations were an “occupational hazard” for people with his public profile. He also told police that his policy for dealing with accusations printed in newspapers was to sue them, and that he had done that on five occasions.
In a separate report from the Crown Prosecution Service, it was stated that action may have been taken earlier, in Savile’s lifetime, if “police and prosecutors (had) taken a different approach” and that if his accusers had known that other people would come forward with claims of abuse “they would probably have been prepared to give evidence.”
Commander Peter Spindler from the Metropolitian Police said Savile tricked everyone and that he hopes the lessons will be learned:
“We need to reflect on why children were seen and not heard and there are numerous examples from across the country, indeed within his family, of children who spoke out to try to tell people in authority about what had happened. I think we were all taken in, you could say he groomed the nation.”