BBC boss quizzed Savile on sex abuse rumours 20 years ago
A SENIOR member of staff at the BBC has revealed he questioned Jimmy Savile over rumours about his private life more than 20 years ago.
As police revealed the DJ and television presenter's alleged catalogue of child sex abuse could have spanned six decades and included around 60 victims, Derek Chinnery, BBC Radio 1 controller from 1978 to 1985, said he quizzed the presenter directly about the rumours.
The scandal has mushroomed since ITV screened a documentary in which five women alleged they were abused by Savile, with Scotland Yard saying there are allegations spanning 1959 to 2006.
Mr Chinnery, who was Savile's boss at Radio 1, told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House: "I asked, 'what's all this, these rumours we hear about you, Jimmy?'.
"And he said, 'that's all nonsense'. There was no reason to disbelieve (Savile)."
Savile worked at Radio 1 from 1969 to 1989 presenting a show of chart songs from previous decades.
Speaking about his acceptance of Savile's denial, Mr Chinnery told the BBC: "It's easy now to say, 'how could you just believe him just like that?'."
He added: "He was the sort of man that attracted rumours, after all, because he was single, he was always on the move, he was always going around the country."
Scotland Yard is pursuing 340 lines of inquiry in the Savile abuse case and so far 12 allegations of sexual offences have been officially recorded but this number is increasing, police said.
Metropolitan Police detectives are in contact with 14 other forces as the number of allegations against the former DJ continues to rise.
Another alleged victim has come forward to say he was abused as a nine-year-old cub scout, making him the youngest known person targeted by the presenter.
Kevin Cook, now 45, told the newspaper Savile touched him inappropriately during filming for a Jim'll Fix It programme.
The BBC was sucked into the scandal after it emerged that Newsnight abandoned an investigation into the alleged abuse. The organisation has also come under fire with claims that staff were aware of the Jim'll Fix It presenter's behaviour and failed to take action.
On Friday, BBC director-general George Entwistle offered a "profound and heartfelt apology" to the alleged victims of Savile's sexual abuse as he announced that two inquiries would be launched.
One will look into whether there were any failings over the handling of the abandoned Newsnight piece.
A second independent inquiry will look into the "culture and practices of the BBC during the years Jimmy Savile worked here", Mr Entwistle said.
Michael Lyons, who was chairman of the BBC Trust from 2007 to 2011, welcomed the investigations into Savile's behaviour but added that there was "a degree of hysteria" when controversies arose involving the BBC.
"It clearly has consequences for the BBC, but frankly I think the consequences spread well beyond the BBC," he said yesterday.
"There may well be lessons here to learn about the way that we tolerate the behaviour of predatory men, particularly when they are in powerful positions.
"And there may be lessons to learn - I am sure there are - about the licence that we sometimes allow to celebrities. This goes well beyond the BBC although there are issues for the BBC to address."
Talking generally about controversy at the BBC, he added: "As they emerge the BBC perhaps understandably becomes a very intense focus for people's concern and anxieties - after all, it is the national broadcaster, we do want to trust it, we do need to be able to trust what it says - so it is naturally the focus where these cases relate to it.
"But equally you have to say actually there is a degree of hysteria in the extent to which it's focused exclusively on the BBC rather than being seen as something of much wider consequence."
The Department of Health (DH) has also been dragged into the scandal over its decision to appoint Savile to lead a "taskforce" at Broadmoor, one of the hospitals where the celebrity allegedly abused patients.
The department will carry out an investigation into how he was given the position while Ken Clarke was health secretary in 1988. The DH could be sued by victims as it was running the psychiatric hospital at the time, according to reports.