Savile scandal deepens over claims girls abused on charity tour outings
Published 13/10/2012 | 05:00
THE Variety children's charity has become the latest organisation to be dragged into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal after it emerged that he was suspected of molesting girls on its Sunshine Coaches.
Scotland Yard is now pursuing 340 lines of inquiry in the Savile abuse case involving 40 potential victims, the force said.
A retired businessman claimed that Savile (far right), who was one of the charity's celebrity fundraisers in the 1970s, regularly attended ceremonies where the keys to new coaches were handed over, and would use his connection to the charity to prey on young children.
Last night the charity launched an investigation into the allegations, saying that if they were true the children it supported had been "let down in the worst possible way".
Variety the Children's Charity, formerly the Variety Club, has raised money for more than 5,000 Sunshine Coaches in the past 50 years.
The buses are used to give sick, disabled and disadvantaged children days out that they would not otherwise be able to have, making around 24,000 trips per year.
For Savile, the coaches were another opportunity to find vulnerable child victims, according to the retired businessman who ran a company with one of the charity's former treasurers.
John Lund said that the late Michael Kay, one of the charity's 'barkers', or principal fundraisers, "detested" Savile and told him he was "practising his dirty little arts" at the time.
Mr Lund said: "Savile was involved in the Variety Club in Leeds and used to go to all these presentations of the coaches in the area.
"Michael told me there was an unhealthy pattern of behaviour involving Savile and the children and it had sickened him.
"There was also a suspicion that something had happened involving Savile on one of the coaches during one of the outings, that he interfered with children on the Sunshine Coaches.
"Michael detested the man, but I don't know whether or not he ever made a formal complaint about him."
Variety has always had strong showbusiness connections, and counts Michael Caine, Michael Parkinson, Kenneth Branagh, Joanna Lumley and Joan Collins among its ambassadors.
Savile was never an official Variety ambassador but he attended luncheons and dinners in aid of the charity.
He was once pushed in a bed from Broadcasting House in London to Park Lane by fellow BBC Radio 1 presenters to raise money for the charity.
However ast night, Keith Andrews, chief barker of Variety, said: "We are extremely concerned to hear of the allegations. If true, the very children we support were let down in the worst possible way."
He added that all those employed by the charity are "thoroughly checked" to ensure that they are suitable and that children are chaperoned on outings.
The latest claims follow allegations that Savile had used his fundraising links to hospitals, including Stoke Mandeville, to abuse child patients. (© Daily Telegraph, London)