For 50 Years, Jimmy Savile Prowled The BBC For Victims — Staff Knew, But Did Nothing

For decades, Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s biggest stars. An eccentric TV personality, he was also called Saint Jimmy for his rigorous fundraising for charity. But to dozens of other people, he was a monster.

Savile died in 2011 at 84, without barely a hint of his secret life brought to the public’s attention, nor police. But a year after his death, stories of vile sexual assault against girls, boys, men, and women in dressing rooms, hospitals, schools, children’s homes, and his van came to light, the BBC reported.

An investigation soon discovered that Jimmy Savile was the U.K.’s most prolific sexual predator.

The abuse began when he was in his late teens or early 20s, as early as the mid-1940s and continued, unabated and unreported, until 2009.

From roughly 1964 to 2007, he was employed by the BBC, but his association with the company began around 1959. That’s the year the sexually assaults began — on company premises. These disturbing details have come to light by way of a 1,000-page $8.3 million report, which alleges that the company had five opportunities to stop Jimmy Savile — but never did.

In interviewing 700 people, investigators found that abuse allegations weren’t reported to senior managers, but their superiors knew about Jimmy Savile’s behavior.

According to the Associated Press, 117 employees admitted to hearing rumors that Jimmy Savile had abused people on the premises; 72 victims, both male and female, have been identified, the youngest 8-years-old. Girls who complained were treated as a “nuisance.”

Jimmy Savile committed his crimes “whenever the opportunity arose,” and assaulted and raped his victims “in virtually every one of the BBC premises at which he worked.” He would invited young boys and girls to watch him perform, and then in the dressing room afterward make a sexual advance upon them.

In the simplest terms, Jimmy Savile got away with it because he was a celebrity. BBC director-general Lord Tony Hall has apologized to the victims.

“What this terrible episode teaches us is that fame is power, a very strong form of power and like any form of power it must be held to account… and it wasn’t.”

The investigation was conducted by a former Court of Appeal judge named Dame Janet Smith, who began the probe in 2012 at the behest of the institution. She has blamed a culture of fear for preventing employees from reporting Jimmy Savile’s behavior to senior managers.

“The evidence I heard suggested that the talent was treated with kid gloves and rarely challenged. There was a feeling of reverence for them and a fear that, if a star were crossed, he or she might leave the BBC.”

She further noted a “culture of separation, competition and even hostility between different parts of the BBC,” which meant that “concerns arising in one part would not be discussed with others. Staff were reluctant to speak out to their managers because they felt it was not their place to do so.”

Unfortunately, Jimmy Savile wasn’t the only serial child molester targeting victims at the institution during this time. A separate investigation by former Court of Appeal judge Dame Linda Dobbs found that another BBC star and sports presenter Stuart Hall, 86, plied his 21 victims with alcohol over the years; he was jailed in 2013 for multiple charges of indecent assault. Managers may have been aware of these incidents as well.

The report has cleared the BBC of any responsibility in the Jimmy Savile case. A lawyer for 168 of his victims, Liz Dux, was disappointed with the findings and said her clients would consider it “nothing more than an expensive whitewash.”

The report found that most of the abuse occurred in the 1970s; victims were found through Jimmy Savile’s work on Top of the Pops; and eight informal complaints were made.

“Both of these men used their fame and positions as BBC celebrities to abuse the vulnerable,” said Smith. “They must be condemned for their monstrous behaviour.”

[Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images]