Week after week audiences across Britain invited the flamboyant and eccentric entertainer Jimmy Savile into their living rooms for the better part of 40 years. His hit television shows “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It,” where each week he granted the wish of one of his young viewers, had made Savile a household name, unsurpassed by few others.
Knighted by not only the Crown but by the Pope, himself, for his philanthropist efforts, when Jimmy Savile passed away on October 29, 2011, many remembered him as a kind and generous man who devoted his life to charity and making people laugh. However, there was a much darker side to Savile that very few knew, and those who did often chose to turn a blind eye to his behavior.
The story of Jimmy Savile is an intricate web of money, power and a nation unwilling to believe that one of their most beloved television personalities had been a wolf disguised in sheep’s clothing and hiding within plain sight.
In Plain Sight
Even before Savile had made it big, his successful career as a club DJ allowed him to have access to young teens who patroned the club. It was an open secret among the staff that Jimmy liked them young, and accusations by some of the young club-goers and staff were instantly quieted after Savile cut them a check.
Savile became more boisterous and brazen about his activities as the years went on. By the time Savile had landed the position as host of “Jim’ll Fix It,” Savile’s secret was anything but. Fellow BBC staff members, including Bill Oddie who had his own successful runs of wildlife programs, have said that it was not unusual for young girls to file out of Jimmy’s campervan while out on shoots and to have Jimmy often dismiss the unusual meetings as fans coming to pay him a visit.
In some instances there were accusations of abuse occurring within BBC studios, with some staff aware of it at the time. BBC denied those allegations, but a rare unaired outtake from BBC 1 painted a different picture.
Savile knew that his ties to some of Britain’s most powerful and influential people, including Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, in conjunction with his fame and fortunate, made him practically untouchable.
A number of Savile’s victims had attempted to come forward throughout the years, but Savile ensured that his victims would not be believed. Targeting some of the most vulnerable children and young adults in the hospitals he was allowed unfettered and unquestioned access to, due to his sizable contributions and celebrity status, those who did come forth with allegations were often told to stop making up stories.
Many journalists attempted to investigate the rampant rumors about Savile throughout the years, but were often ordered to cease and desist by lawyers and editors. John Lydon, better known as Johnny Rotten and the outspoken frontman of The Sex Pistols, attempted to allude to Savile’s well-known industry secret in 1978. The radio program went unaired and the stunt earned Lyden a lifetime ban from the BBC.
The Death Bed Bombshell
It would seem the cat was out of the bag on Savile, and some people within the industry were ready to call him out on it publicly. Savile attempted to save face in many of his interviews in the years prior to his death, claiming that he hated children and attempting to distance his public persona from his sexual interest in children as much as possible, but with a secret as open and crimes as prolific as Savile’s, it was only a matter of time before the evidence manifested itself.
10 days prior to Savile’s death, 14 police agencies across Britain opened cases on allegations against Savile. They found that the number of potential victims were “staggering.”
Just days after Savile’s death, journalists had finished the story and were ready to go public with everything they have found out about Savile. The networks, feeling that the story was in poor taste to air so close to Savile’s death, decided they needed to sit on it a while longer.
Finally, in 2012 the ITV bombshell expose on their series “Exposure” spilled the beans on Savile and the shocking double life he had been leading.
After the broadcast of the Jimmy Savile scandal on “Exposure” many other news agencies followed suit and a number of whistleblowers stepped forward, including a psychiatric nurse who had worked at one of the facilities Savile frequented. She says that a patient had come forward to her. The patient had told the nurse that she had confronted Savile about the abuse and had threatened to report him to hospital administrators, but “… my impression I was left was that she had felt that it was pointless to do anything but go to the top because everybody was fully aware of what he was doing and the fact that nothing was being done meant that she couldn’t trust the staff who were around to do anything about it.”
The backlash from the expose and other agencies picking up on the story forced numerous hospitals Savile had worked with throughout the years to conduct internal investigations on the allegations of patient abuse within their facilities. They found that not only had some of the staff known about the abuse, but some of their former employees may have engaged in inappropriate relations with patients and other staff members themselves.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals, which boast a number of facilities around the UK as well as the largest children’s hospital within the country, were some of a number of hospitals that allowed Jimmy Savile access to their facilities whenever he pleased. Savile volunteered as a porter for their hospitals and his donations to the facility were unsurpassed any other known celebrity.
Within the official report – completed by Susan Proctor, Ray Galloway, Rebecca Chaloner, Claire Jones, David Thompson – startling revelations were made about Savile’s duties as a volunteer and the level of access he had to the hospital compared to other staff, porters, celebrities or fundraisers throughout his relationship with the hospital beginning in the 1960s and continuing on to the 1990s.
The report states that Savile worked primarily in their infirmary. “During the late 1960s and 1970s, Savile had wide-ranging access across the Infirmary. There was little evidence of challenge to or controls on his whereabouts during this period, or in later years when he spent comparatively less time at the hospital. In addition to duties as a porter, and his ward visits, he sometimes attended consultant ward rounds, assisted in the delivery of intimate care such as giving bed baths to patients, and regularly visited the mortuary.” The report goes on to say that during this time Savile had unrestricted parking of his campervan and had uncontrolled access to the hospital wards due to his friendly relationships with key staff members.
The report found that at least 64 patients and staff members had been subjected to inappropriate encounters or abuse at the hands of Savile, a majority of which were in their late teens or early 20s. These cases included everything from inappropriate remarks and exposure, to molestation and rape of patients and hospital staff. One patient was quoted within the report as having said in her testimony, “I didn’t think anybody would believe a word I said about either of the things that happened because Jimmy Savile is almost put on a pedestal by everybody.” This appeared to have been a running theme throughout the interviews contained within the report.
Most patients and staff claimed that the abuse often happened when they were left alone. An alarming number of patients claimed that Savile had touched them inappropriately as they were under the influence of medications or recovering from surgery.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the report is the focus on Savile’s access to the mortuary. The report states that there had been rumors that Savile would be in the mortuary at any given time and some speculation that Savile may have interfered or engaged in inappropriate activity with the corpses. These accusations could not be substantiated, but report concludes:
“… it is evident his interest in the mortuary was not within accepted boundaries.”
Broadmoor Hospital, which houses some of Britain’s most severely mentally ill patients and the criminally insane, was another hospital Savile had been heavily involved with. There were rumors that Savile even had a close relationship with the Yorkshire Ripper, who had been housed in the facility, and that Savile, himself, had been a suspect in the case. It is still unclear what Savile’s relationship with the serial killer was and if any of the claims had any basis, other than having visited with Peter Sutcliffe on several occasions as he had with many of the patients at Broadmoor.
Broadmoor’s report — compiled by Dr. Bill Kirkup CBE and Paul Marshall — found there had been at least 10 allegations of sexual assault against Savile from the hospital’s patients and staff, and that two of these victims may have committed suicide on account of the abuse suffered by Savile according to a former patient interviewed. One staff member was quoted within the report as having said,
“Savile’s general behaviour toward women was often flamboyantly inappropriate, including extravagant forms of greeting, inappropriate remarks and physical contact. Many women were uncomfortable with this and found him objectionable, but they thought at the time that it was part of his public act, ‘just Jimmy’.”
Savile was allowed to have accommodations on the hospital grounds and keys to have access to secured areas within the hospital. Though some staff members objected to Savile having access to certain areas of the hospital or visiting certain wards unattended, other staff allowed Savile to come and go as he pleased at all hours of the day and night.
Savile’s headstone was completely destroyed by vandals shortly after the abuse and sexual assault allegations went public. He is now buried in an unmarked grave.
In episode 51 of Sword and Scale, Mike eludes to how the Savile sex abuse scandal left a nation with egg on their face and the damaging toll to it took on their psyches. For some, the unexaggerated claims from Savile’s victims and witnesses to Savile’s abuse weren’t enough. It wasn’t long before the Savile case devolved into a modern case of satanic panic and tabloids were quick to publish far-fetched stories about satanic rituals conducted by Savile and his associates, as well as satanic sexual abuse rings headed by Savile and other notable people within the UK and across Europe.
Unlike the official reports and key testimony of patients who were known to have had contact with Savile, these claims are widely unsubstantiated and offer little proof into their validity. It would seem that the shocking scandal had since grew legs and started a life all its own, leaving an entire country to fall into a rabbit hole that may take years for it to fully recover from.