Jimmy Savile report details 'unprecedented' sex abuse
British police say late entertainer committed offences in schools, hospitals
The late entertainer Jimmy Savile committed more than 200 sex crimes over more than half a century, with most victims children and teens assaulted the length and breadth of Britain, from TV studios to hospitals and even a hospice, a police report said Friday.
Detectives said the scale of Savile's sex abuse was "unprecedented in the U.K."
The police report describes a "prolific, predatory sex offender" whose celebrity unlocked the doors of institutions across Britain, from hospitals where he served as a charity fundraiser to schools whose pupils eagerly watched his television programs — and even to the prime minister's country house, where he dined with Margaret Thatcher.
A three-month police investigation revealed a staggering 214 offences allegedly committed by Savile between 1955 and 2009, including 34 rapes, on victims aged eight to 47. In all, 450 people have come forward with information about abuse by the late TV presenter.
The number of Savile's crimes is likely to rise further as more victims' reports are officially recorded, said Detective Superintendent David Gray, the chief investigating police officer.
The catalogue of abuse is the fullest accounting yet of the allegations against Savile, a TV and radio personality who died in October 2011 at age 84. Savile's elaborate funeral reflected his career as a popular entertainer and tireless charity worker, but a documentary broadcast late last year pulled the mask away, claiming that he was a serial sex offender who traded on his celebrity to prey on vulnerable children.
"This whole sordid affair has demonstrated the tragic consequences of what happens when vulnerability collides with power," said Commander Peter Spindler, head of the police specialist crime unit.
Used celebrity status to 'hide in plain sight'
Police said Savile used his celebrity status to "hide in plain sight," winning the trust of institutions and targeting vulnerable individuals unlikely to speak out against him.
The report said Savile committed 50 offences at medical establishments, including a cancer hospice and several psychiatric hospitals, 14 at schools, and 33 at television or radio stations; 73 per cent of his victims were under 18 and 82 per cent were female, police said.
"The details provided by victims of his abuse paint the picture of a mainly opportunistic individual who used his celebrity status as a powerful tool to coerce or control them, preying on the vulnerable or star-struck for his sexual gratification," the report said.
Peter Watt of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said Savile was an "evil and manipulative man" who "cunningly built his entire career around gaining access to vulnerable children."
Charity work raised Savile's profile, credibility
Savile hosted the long-running BBC music show Top of the Pops, which saw everyone from the Rolling Stones to the Sex Pistols perform before an audience of excited young people. Police say victims were assaulted in dressing rooms or groped during filming breaks. One victim was a teenager who said she was assaulted at the last-ever recording of the show in 2006, when Savile was nearly 80.
"He could do anything he wanted," said Detective Supt. David Gray, who led the police investigation. "He could turn up at a school and say 'Is anyone interested in meeting me?"'
He often visited a school for troubled girls, where pupils were allegedly offered cigarettes and trips in Savile's car in return for sex. The flamboyant star often drove a convertible Rolls-Royce.
Savile also was a fundraiser for hospitals, including Leeds General Infirmary in his northern England home town and the Stoke Mandeville spinal injuries centre in southern England. Savile's charitable work raised his profile and credibility.
"I find it quite scary that people who had the power to stop him didn't use that power ... and he went on to do the most horrific things to people in the most awful circumstances," said Caroline Moore, who says Savile abused her as she recovered from a spinal operation at Stoke Mandeville in 1971.
Abuse could have been exposed earlier, officials say
Officials said Savile's abuse might have been brought to light earlier had authorities pursued allegations against him more seriously.
Spindler said Savile's victims would be disappointed he had not faced justice in his lifetime but could take comfort from authorities' resolve not to let it happen again.
"The victims themselves will get some sense of satisfaction from being heard," he said.
A parallel report drawn up by senior prosecutor Alison Levitt and also published Friday faulted officials for not pursuing allegations more vigorously. Levitt's report noted that several women had spoken to police about Savile between 2007 and 2008, but no charges were brought, in part because the women declined to testify in court.
Levitt said police could have tried harder to get them to speak out, noting in particular that the women weren't told that other victims had corroborated their accounts.
"Having spoken to the victims I have been driven to conclude that had the police and prosecutors taken a different approach a prosecution might have been possible," she wrote.