Jimmy Savile occasionally hinted darkly at a fascination with dead bodies – once revealing that he slept next to his mother's corpse. "When she died she was all mine," he said in an interview in 1990.
As the depths of his sexual depravity emerged after his death, rumours swirled of alleged necrophilia – although even his most outspoken critics hoped such perversion was beyond him.
Yesterday, however, the rumours were given credence by an official British National Health Service (NHS) report revealing the horrific scale of his abuse at Broadmoor and Leeds General Infirmary, where the DJ had close connections.
The investigation established that Savile had unrestricted access to the mortuary at Leeds, thanks to his friendship with the chief mortician.
A former nurse at Broadmoor also claimed Savile had said he used to pose male and female dead bodies together for photographs while two witnesses told investigators that Savile claimed to have had jewellery made from glass eyes taken from corpses. One asked Savile about the "bulbous ring" he was wearing. "It's made from the eyeball of a dead friend," Savile told the hospital employee.
Dr Sue Proctor, who led the Leeds investigation, acknowledged Savile's interest in the dead was "pretty unwholesome" and did not dismiss the "incredibly harrowing" claims that he committed sex acts on corpses, although said she had found no concrete evidence to prove he did so.
The report found that Jimmy Savile spared no one in the half- a-century he manipulated his way into hospitals before abusing and raping staff, patients and visitors.
His victims – men and women, boys and girls – ranged in age from children as young as five to pensioners in their 70s as his horrific crimes went unchallenged until after his death aged 84 in 2011.
Several victims spoke out at the time they were assaulted but all were ignored, according to the wide-ranging investigation, which covered 28 NHS Trusts. No individual was blamed for allowing the "opportunistic sexual predator" to thrive but the reports said hospital managers "didn't want to hear or believe" about Savile's activities.
The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised on behalf of the British government and the NHS yesterday to all Savile's victims. Describing Savile as a "callous, opportunistic, wicked predator", he said systems had been "too weak" to deal with their complaints and that "little or no action" had been taken at the time.
At Leeds, where the former 'Top of the Pops' presenter worked in the 1960s and 1970s as a volunteer porter, 60 people told investigators they were abused – 33 of them patients, 19 of them children – including staff and several female victims who met him at the hospital.
The attacks occurred from 1962 to as recently as 2009 when Savile was 82, although investigators said he was most prolific in the first 15 years he worked at the infirmary.
Nine of his victims told a member of staff directly or indirectly via their parents about the assaults but the investigation found no evidence that managers were informed of any reports of abuse. A member of staff who complained of Savile's abuse in 2003 was dismissed by her line manager for making "silly comments".
His relationship with the infirmary began in 1960 and continued until his death 51 years later.
The report said: "Of the victims from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust or its predecessor bodies, ages ranged from five years to 75 years. Nineteen children and 14 adults were patients at the time of their abuse. In addition 19 members of staff reported abusive or inappropriate encounters with Savile."
Peter Watt, national services director at the NSPCC, said: "To hear that some hospital staff may have actively facilitated Savile's abuse of children is sickening and takes the scandal of his crimes to yet another abhorrent level."
Savile's association with Broadmoor began in 1968 and lasted more than 30 years. He even took on a managerial role, having been appointed to lead a task force set up to run the high-security hospital in 1988. Investigators received descriptions of 11 allegations, two from males, of sexual abuse – six involving patients, two staff and three children.
Savile secured his own set of keys at Broadmoor allowing him to walk unannounced on to female wards, bypassing all the necessary checks. The report described a culture where inappropriate sexual liaisons between staff and patients were tolerated. It said: "All of this played into Savile's hands."
Until the late 1980s, female patients were obliged to strip in front of staff to change into nightwear or to bathe. Savile watched, and looked through doorways at female patients bathing while making inappropriate comments.
The Broadmoor report said there was "lax" observance of procedures, adding: "Savile could be charming and persuasive, at least to some, but at the same time he was grandiose, narcissistic, arrogant and lacking any empathy. He was also very manipulative and many staff were convinced that he had close connections in high places and had the power to have them dismissed."
The DJ used his Broadmoor accommodation and caravan "to entertain a regular stream of female visitors, none of whom were patients".
Dr Bill Kirkup, the investigator, said his report's findings are "likely to represent an underestimate of the true picture". Broadmoor's chief executive Steve Shrubb said that the hospital has been transformed since Savile's time, but for his countless victims the horror remains. After the publication of the report yesterday, Mr Hunt told the Commons: "At the time the victims who spoke up were not believed and it is important today that we all publicly recognise the truth of what they have said.
"But it is a profoundly uncomfortable truth. In reality (Savile) was a sickening and prolific sexual abuser who repeatedly exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes."
A joint review by the Metropolitan Police and NSPCC into the Savile allegations led to 214 criminal offences, including 34 rapes, being recorded against his name across the UK between 1955 and 2009.
Claims from the report that some of the abuse happened in hospital settings triggered the separate NHS investigations.
A key report into Savile's activities at Stoke Mandeville Hospital has been delayed after new information recently came to light, while a "lessons learnt" report on the Savile investigations for the Department of Health will be published in the autumn. (© Independent News Service)