Shadows lift to reveal monstrous life
As more of Jimmy Savile's legacy of misery comes to light, Neil Tweedie and Tom Rowley outline how the clues to his depravity were there all along
IT was the nearest the pop world gets to a royal funeral: the vast cortege processing through crowded streets, the Royal Marine pallbearer party, white-gloved in ceremonial uniform, and, fittingly for a national treasure, a golden coffin. James Wilson Vincent Savile, Knight Bachelor, Papal Knight Commander of the Order of St Gregory the Great, was as loud in death as life.
"His story was an epic of giving. Giving of time, giving of talent, giving of treasure," Monsignor Kieran Heskin informed the congregation. "Sir Jimmy Savile can face eternal life with confidence."
God would undoubtedly "fix it".
Last week, the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, wrote to the Holy See asking for the posthumous removal of Savile's papal knighthood. Like other organisations, the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is attempting to rid itself of the stain of association with the late disc jockey and television presenter. The two charities set up in his name are to be closed down and their funds dispersed anonymously.
The number of people alleging sexual abuse at the hands of Jimmy Savile from the Sixties to the Eighties now stands at some 300. The vast majority were young teenagers, girls and boys, groped, fondled and raped. History is being hastily rewritten. A year on, and the pop pomp of that funeral in Savile's native Leeds appears worse than a bad joke.
The DJ who flaunted his friendship with Britain's royal family, who gave marital advice to Charles and Diana, who spent Christmas at Chequers with Margaret Thatcher, who posed for a photograph with Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, was, in all probability, one of Britain's most prolific paedophiles. He was a man who could barely contain his perverse sexual appetites, even to the extent of assaulting a young woman on the terrace of the House of Commons in full view of MPs.
He proudly related such exploits in his 1974 autobiography, yet managed to escape retribution until his death last October at the age of 84.
"The Archbishop of Westminster recognises the deep distress of all those who have suffered abuse and the disquiet at Mr Savile's name remaining on papal honours lists," a spokesman for the country's most senior Roman Catholic cleric told the Daily Telegraph in Britain. "While the outcome of the current police investigation is awaited, the allegations of abuse are deeply shocking and our thoughts go first to all those who have been abused."
Three weeks after the ITV documentary Exposure finally blew the lid on Savile, the scandal surrounding his exploits continues its slow detonation, threatening to demolish the reputations of living and dead. Police investigating his misdeeds warned last week of arrests to come, household names included. The police (and the media, for that matter) have a lot of explaining to do in regard to Savile's charmed existence.
Meanwhile, at the BBC a sub-scandal is threatening to engulf senior executives, director-generals past and present, and even the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten. The corporation is accused of suppressing an investigation into Savile's crimes by a Newsnight team that began shortly after the star's death because it could have compromised the screening of two Christmas tribute shows.
Just how far up the chain of command detailed discussion about the Savile story went is unclear, but George Entwistle, the new director-general, was singularly unconvincing when questioned by the Commons culture and media committee on Tuesday. Apparent dissembling by news executives, Entwistle's lack of grip and Patten's complacency in emphasising BBC independence over the need to come clean on sexual misconduct in the corporation have plunged the broadcaster into what veteran correspondent John Simpson has described as its worst crisis in 50 years.
The tentacles of the Savile affair stretch from the corridors of power at Broadcasting House to Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, the Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital in Berkshire, an approved school for girls in Surrey, Haut de la Garenne, the notorious children's home on Jersey and even to the New York Times, where Mark Thompson, BBC director-general during the abortive Newsnight investigation, is trying to save his new career as the newspaper's chief executive.
The Savile affair is not only one of the biggest sex scandals of modern times but the strangest, given that myriad misdemeanours, often involving sexual assaults of amazing rapidity against unsuspecting victims, were widely suspected and even known. Gossip about the presenter's predilection for young bodies circulated freely for many years at the BBC and in newspaper offices. The police actually investigated him for a string of alleged offences.
As long ago as the Eighties, a girl alleged that Savile had indecently assaulted her in his caravan at BBC Television Centre in west London. He was even warned by a local officer to stay away from young females. In 2003, a complaint was made by another woman alleging that Savile had touched her inappropriately when she was a youngster in the Seventies.
Then, in 2007, came a flurry of allegations against the star concerning his stays at various institutions. He was accused of sexually assaulting a young girl at Duncroft approved school in Surrey in 1973 and inciting another girl to have sex later in the decade. Savile was also accused of the indecent assault of a young female patient at Stoke Mandeville in 1973, and an adult in Sussex in 1970. In 2008 the presenter was accused of abusing a 10-year-old boy at industrial school Haut de la Garenne, the focus of lingering suspicions about organised paedophilia.
Surrey police questioned Savile about the allegations in 2007, but in 2009 the Crown Prosecution Service ruled there was insufficient evidence to proceed. The DPP is investigating that decision.
"He was a predator, really, a predator on young girls," says one of his victims, who was introduced to Savile in 1969, when she was 15. She became one of a select group of girls invited back to the presenter's dressing room in Television Centre following recordings of Top of the Pops.
"The first time something happened he got me into the alcove in the dressing room, pushed me back against the wall and then it was a hand up the skirt and touching me.
"He did it on various occasions in various places and it was always very quick, and he was very strong.
"He would grab any opportunity. The first question he ever asked me was how old I was, so he knew."
Then, when she was 16, he raped her in his caravan. "He promised me he wasn't going all the way, but he did. There was no romance."
When he was nine years old, Kevin Cook appeared with members of his cub scout pack on Jim'll Fix It, the BBC show that transformed Savile into a national institution. "He took me to a small dressing room," remembers Mr Cook. "He said 'Do you want to earn your (Jim'll Fix It) badge?' and he sat me on a chair." Savile proceeded to sexually assault him.
Was Jimmy Savile a lone wolf, preying on innocents intimidated by his fame, power and physical presence? Evidence suggests not. Guy Marsden is Savile's nephew. He remembers being taken by his uncle to house parties in London in the late Sixties, when he was still of school age. He and other teenage boys were allegedly used as "intermediaries'', looking after younger children until they were summoned to bedrooms by men (there were no women present).
Guests included famous faces. Mr Marsden, now 59, says Savile would sometimes arrive with a man dressed as a priest. The BBC is carrying out an investigation into abuses carried out on its premises by Savile and other members of staff, past and present.
One of the many odd things about Jimmy Savile, who once described his mother Agnes ("The Duchess") as the only true love of his life, was his confessional approach to sex. In that 1974 autobiography, Love is an Uphill Thing, he relates incident after incident, conquest after conquest, including one during a reception on the terrace of the House of Commons.
He writes: "One of the young ladies of the party was very dolly and had an unusually large chest area. It being a warm evening and a low dress, her bosoms appeared to be trying to come up for some fresh air. Suddenly, a terrible thing happened."
A burning match intended for a cigarette had fallen "fair and square" into her cleavage.
"Something had to be done so I seized her lower bristol area hoping it would smother the burning sulphur. Her third scream was a mixture of 'Jesus Christ!' for the pain, 'You stupid clumsy sod!' for her luckless companion and 'Watch what you're doing there' for me. It was the final scream of the trilogy that drew the attention of most of the terrace. All they saw was me, reefing the buxom wench and all presumed I'd suddenly gone mad. All was eventually sorted out but, as is usual, vastly misunderstood by most."
And this from when he was a nightclub manager in Leeds:
"A high-ranking lady police officer came in one night and showed me the picture of an attractive girl who had run away from a remand home. 'Ah,' says I, all serious, 'if she comes in I'll bring her back tomorrow but I'll keep her all night first as my reward.' The law lady, new to the area, was nonplussed. Back at the station, she asked, 'Is he serious?'
"It is God's truth that the absconder came in [to the club] that night. Taking her into the office, I said, 'Run now if you want, but you can't run for the rest of your life.' She listened to the alternative and agreed that I hand her over if she could stay at the dance, come home with me, and that I would promise to see her when they let her out.
"At 11.30 the next morning she was willingly presented to an astounded lady of the law. The officeress was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues, for it was well known that, were I to go, I would probably take half the station with me."
"With Angus Ogilvy and his super missus Princess Alexandra one feels a great friendship from the off. I am the vice-president to his presidency of the National Association of Youth Clubs and he is often down with us at headquarters in Devonshire Street, wanting to know what's happening. Princess Alex is a patron of a hostel for girls in care. At this place I'm a cross between a term-time boyfriend and a fixer of special trips out."
Yet, Savile could issue brazen denials. In a 2006 interview, he said the press would never find any dirt. "There isn't any. I'm very boring. Any tabloid journalist will tell you two things: one, I'm very boring; two, I don't do drugs, I don't do under-age sex or any of them things."
Newsnight producer Meirion Jones (whose aunt was head of Duncroft approved school) suspected this claim was nonsense. He pitched the idea of an investigation to programme editor Peter Rippon soon after Savile's death. An experienced reporter, Liz MacKean, was assigned to the story and she and Jones got to work, tracking down victims and attempting to discover why Surrey police had failed to produce a sufficiently damning body of evidence.
As we learned last week, emails show Rippon to have been happy with the results and discussing preparations for transmission, but then office politics intervened. MacKean emailed a friend: "PR [Rippon] says if the bosses aren't happy can't go to the wall on this one."
In December last year, Helen Boaden, BBC director of news, warned Entwistle, then the corporation's director of vision, about the possible impact of the investigation on the Christmas schedule, which included two Savile tribute programmes, in a conversation lasting "less than 10 seconds". Entwistle later explained: "It was a busy lunch -- I didn't want to show undue interest."
Rippon then pulled the story, citing weaknesses in the facts uncovered, despite a warning from Jones that it could result in "substantial damage to BBC reputation". The Newsnight editor then compounded the problem by stating in his blog that the investigation was concerned primarily with the conduct of the police investigation, not Savile's paedophilia. Both Jones and MacKean dispute this. MacKean emailed a friend: "When we rebut his [Rippon's] points, he resorts to saying, well, it was 40 years ago... the girls were teenagers, not too young... they weren't the worst kind of sexual offences, etc."
Rippon has now "stepped aside" from his post, whatever that means, collateral damage in a scandal of rare scope and endurance.
Jimmy Savile, youngest of seven, child of a poor Yorkshire home, never formed an enduring relationship with a woman, except that which he enjoyed with "The Duchess". After the death of Agnes in 1973, he spent five days with her body before its burial. "The best five days of my life," he said. "She looked marvellous. She belonged to me. It's wonderful, is death."
Savile's was the strangest of lives. He was the prototype for the modern television personality, a man who traded on himself, his appearance and eccentricity. He could be charitable and generous -- but was a very dangerous sexual predator.
In that bizarre autobiography, he muses: "I say, wouldn't it be a great idea if we all had two separate goes at life? Or would it be the same? Would the personal mistakes still be made that hold us captive to the system? The violent crime of momentary passion that gets people locked up for life. The temptation that puts you outside the law of society, brands you, and affects you till you die. Whatever it's all about, we're all well and truly stuck with it. If we have to answer for our lives after death, those people who have made other people unhappy will be the ones really in trouble with the Boss."
There is a lot of misery in this world because of Jimmy Savile. If there is a next, he will be there, answering for it.