BBC memos 'prove that Tony Blackburn was quizzed over 1971 sex claim'
Memos have emerged which purport to show that the veteran DJ was questioned about allegations that he had seduced a 15-year-old girl, despite his recollections to the contrary
Published 26/02/2016 | 09:49
Memos written by senior BBC executives and a lawyer outline the denials made by Tony Blackburn when confronted with allegations that he had seduced a 15-year-old girl in 1971.
The interviews are at the centre of a controversy surrounding the veteran DJ, who told an independent review into Jimmy Savile's sexual abuse at the BBC that he had not been quizzed by either man.
However, he later told Dame Janet Smith, the retired judge who conducted the inquiry, via his solicitor, that she "might well prefer" documentary evidence that showed the questioning had taken place.
Blackburn, 73, was sacked from the BBC this week after director-general Lord Tony Hall said he "fell short of the standards of evidence that such an inquiry demanded".
The memos were written following interviews undertaken by Bill Cotton, a senior BBC executive, and Sir Brian Neill QC, a lawyer who oversaw an inquiry into Top of the Pops, over allegations that Blackburn invited teenager Claire McAlpine back to his flat and seduced her.
Miss McAlpine committed suicide in 1971, leaving behind a diary containing the claims, which Blackburn has always denied.
One of the memos, seen by the Daily Mirror, was written by Tony Preston, the BBC's Assistant Head of Variety, and showed that Blackburn had been interviewed by both him and Mr Cotton about the girl, and had "flatly denied what had been alleged".
He wrote: "As we expected, he has issued a flat denial. For my part, I must accept the situation, although I would be less than fair if I were not to record that his [Blackburn's] recollection does not agree with the first thoughts of his agent."
Another note states: "Enquiries were duly made and two senior officials of the BBC interviewed the disc jockey concerned. The disc jockey denied categorically the allegation made."
The documents also reveal Mr Blackburn was interviewed again by Brian Neill QC between 1971 and 1972 as part of an inquiry into a string of scandals at Top of the Pops, where Claire was a dancer.
The lawyer noted the DJ "told me that the girl had come to see him on several occasions and had invented stories for the purpose of getting access to him".
He added: "He said she seemed to him in a sort of fantasy world but that she had not made any sexual advances."
One of the memos is said to record a complaint by Claire's mother, Vera, who wanted the BBC chairman to know her daughter had been "seduced" by Blackburn.
In her report, Dame Janet noted that Blackburn, who is referred to as A7, had denied that he was ever made aware that a complaint had been made against him and also denied that he was ever interviewed by Mr Cotton or Mr Preston.
She wrote: "It was pointed out to him that, if indeed there had been no interview, it was strange that Mr Preston should have written this memorandum and should have recorded his concern about the disparity between the account given by A7 at the interview and that given earlier by his agent. A7 could offer no explanation for this and said that he was 'mystified'.
"Later, through his solicitor, A7 accepted that I might well prefer the documentary evidence to his recollection on these issues.
"I do prefer that evidence and think that A7 was interviewed and denied the allegation."
The report does not make any judgment about Blackburn's conduct, and Dame Janet said that she examined the allegations purely to see "what can be inferred about the BBC's culture and practices from the way in which the matter was investigated by the BBC".
However, she did find that BBC staff "prejudged" the investigation and that the first reaction was to "take no further action" despite an allegation of criminal conduct.
Blackburn has threatened to take legal action the BBC over his sacking.
In a statement released on Thursday, he said: "Given Dame Janet Smith's concerns of a culture of fear in coming forward at the BBC, the fact that I have been scapegoated for giving my honest account and best recollections of those events 45 years ago - which I felt was a whitewash - what whistleblower at the BBC would ever come forward when they see the way they have hung me out to dry.
"Sadly today's news agenda should have been about the survivors of abuse carried out within the BBC but, by sacking me, they have managed to take the focus off those who have suffered so much.
"My lawyers are now considering all statements made by the BBC about me today and we will be taking action."