Prolific sex abuser Savile “groomed a nation”: UK police (Reuters)
(Reuters) – The late British TV presenter Jimmy Savile, honored by both the queen and the pope, sexually assaulted hundreds of people, mainly children, at BBC premises and hospitals over six decades of unparalleled abuse, a police-led report said on Friday.
Savile, one of Britain’s biggest TV stars in the 1970s and 1980s, abused youngsters at 13 hospitals where he did voluntary work as a porter and fundraiser, and even at a hospice treating terminally ill patients.
The youngest victim was an 8-year-old boy, and the last of the 214 offences of which he is suspected took place just two years before his death in 2011 at the age of 84.
“He groomed a nation,” said Commander Peter Spindler, who led the police investigation and said the scale of his crimes were without precedence.
A one-time professional wrestler, Savile became famous as a pioneering DJ in the 1960s before becoming a regular fixture on TV hosting prime-time pop and children’s shows until the 1990s.
He also ran about 200 marathons for charity, raising tens of millions of pounds (dollars) for hospitals, leading some to give him keys to rooms where victims now allege they were abused.
While many colleagues and viewers thought the cigar-chomping Savile was weird, with his long blonde hair, penchant for garish outfits and flashy jewellery, he was considered a “national treasure”, honored not just by the queen but also by the late Pope John Paul II who made him a papal knight in 1990.
However, Friday’s report said he took advantage of his fame to commit predatory offences across Britain, including 34 rapes or serious sexual assaults. Of his alleged victims, 73 percent were under 18 and 82 percent were female. The oldest was 47.
In all, 450 people have given information about him and detectives said more victims were likely to come forward. However, the report, issued jointly by London police and the NSPCC children’s charity, said some would never feel able to break their silence.
“He hid in plain sight, behind a veil of eccentricity double-bluffing those who challenged him, from vulnerable children right up to and including a prime minister of the time,” said Peter Watt from the NSPCC.
He said Savile had “cunningly” built his life’s work around getting access to children to abuse.