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Wednesday 17 September 2014

Stuart Hall: victims say they were abused at BBC

Steven Swinford

Published 03/05/2013 | 14:58

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The BBC is facing calls to open an inquiry into Stuart Hall after his victims said they were groomed and sexually assaulted on its premises when they were schoolgirls.

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Two of his victims have come forward to say they were sexually abused by Hall in the 1960s and 1970s after he was hired for their school prizegivings.

Hall invited both girls to the BBC's Manchester headquarters after promising that he would help them with their careers. One victim said Hall plied her with "plenty of champagne" before raping her in his dressing room.

Another said Hall sexually assaulted her in his car after inviting her to a "mocked up" studio session at the corporation's Manchester studios.

Both said Hall was helped by his friends, amid growing concerns that other staff at BBC may have turned a blind eye to the abuse.

Angie Bray, a Conservative member of the culture, media and sport select committee, said: "They have to look at this all over again. Depressingly, we see a pattern developing. Jimmy Savile is not just a one-off."

The investigation into Hall's activities began after one of his victims wrote an anonymous letter to a columnist at The Independent newspaper.

She said that she had been groomed and sexually abused by Hall after meeting him at her school prize-giving in the 1970s, when he was a presenter on Look North, a local BBC news programme.

Hall told her headmaster he was "impressed" and thought she could have a "future in television journalism", inviting her back to the BBC's studios.

She said:"I was young for my years and easy meat for a man like him," the woman wrote. To have a man of my father's age take a benevolent interest in me seemed wonderful.

"Sadly the world is too full of girls (and boys) who are looking for love, and find out too late that they have found sex with a predator instead."

On her third visit to the corporation's studios, Hall took the teenager back to his dressing room and raped her. "I still can't bear champagne and the memory of his crepey skin makes me shudder," she wrote.

On another occasion Hall took her to the house of a friend of his. "Stuart giggled that [he] would be horrified if [he] knew how old I was," she said. "Apparently the friend complained later to Stuart about the state of the sheets, he had to change them quickly before his wife saw them."

Hall even gave her a prescription for contraceptive pills. "He took advantage of my youth, naiveties, loneliness and manipulated me into having sex," she said.

The woman decided to come forward after Hall was given an OBE in the 2012 New Year Honours list and because every time she saw that "oily, perma-tanned creature" on the television she had to leave the room.

"How do I tell my husband why I want to scream, vomit and throw a brick through the television screen," she asked.

The columnist at The Independent passed her letter on to the police, who later told her that he had not been "on their radar" but that they had opened a new inquiry. The former It's A Knockout presenter subsequently admitted indecently assaulting 13 girls as young as nine.

The second victim, Susan Harrison, told the Daily Mail that she met Hall when she was just 15 at her school prize giving. "Normally we just shook hands but Mr Hall was giving the girls a kiss, it was very embarrassing."

Susan then gave a performance and sang Blow The Wind Southerly. After her performance offered her the "opportunity of a lifetime" and said he would arrange a BBC studio recording for her.

She followed his advice and came to the BBC's Manchester headquarters in Piccadilly in 1967. When she arrived, however, the recording was anything but professional.

She was met by a man who claimed to be a sound recordist. "He didn't say anything to me, didn't introduce himself. I wasn't made to feel welcome at all. It was all very strange."

When Hall arrived he claimed the pianist had failed to turn up and returned with another man who "was not very happy". "You are going to owe me for this one," he told Hall.

The "recording" ended after 20 minutes, and Hall took Susan for drinks. After plying her with alcohol he took her home in his car and tried to relax her by making "light conversation" about his daughter, Francesca, who was seven at the time.

"All of a sudden he brought his left hand over my right leg and then moved his hand up my skirt and started touching me," she said. "I was shocked and terrified. It went on for a couple of minutes. But then I quickly moved to the left of the car and away from him."

She developed a "nervous cough", and Hall offered to "rub your chest with something". She left the car in tears when she got home, where her father was furios with Hall.

"My father was very angry and he came out to see if Mr Hall was still there but of course he had driven off. Afterwards my father said, 'he is famous and we are nobody and nobody is going to believe you'."

The victim's evidence emerged after Linda McDougall, a former producer at BBC Manchester in the 1960s and 1970s, said the presenter had room set aside at the BBC where he could entertain his "lady friends". She said "everyone knew" the women were not coming for "cups of tea".

The BBC said that the allegations will either be passed to police or examined by the Dame Janet Smith review, which is investigating abuse by Jimmy Savile while he was working at the corporation.

A spokesman said: "We are aware of a number of allegations that have been made in relation to Stuart Hall and where appropriate these are being passed on to the police or the Dame Janet Smith review."

Telegraph.co.uk

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