Top UK entertainer sexually abused hundreds, mostly children

A long-awaited investigation of top UK entertainer Jimmy Savile, who died in 2011, reveals that he sexually assaulted hundreds at BBC premises and at hospitals where he performed charity work. The victims were mostly children.

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.

This whole thing has been mindboggling. Savile was one of the nation's most prominent entertainers and occupied a unique place in British culture; the search for illustrative U.S. analogues is almost impossible. Imagine a cross between Jimmy Durante and Jerry Sandusky, with long and incompetently self-cut bleached hair, huge cigars and cheap gangsta outfits, grossly masculine yet mockingly effeminate, lauded all the while for superficial childrens' charity work.

Part of his schtick was to twist his face into charicatures of human surprise and fear, leering into the camera, as if shouting "I am a monster! Can't you see?". He triggered fight-or-flight reactions for his own amusement—an avatar of the BBC's all-pervasive monoculture, he would never be exposed while alive.

But everyone always knew, and yet nothing ever quite clicked together in a way that made it clear to enough people just how bad he was. He wrote about having sex with underage girls in his 1970s autobiography; in 2001, he refused to tell interviewer Louis Theroux that he was not a pedophile. And yet he kept at it almost until his death--shortly after which point the BBC killed its own internal investigation for reasons that, like everything else about Jimmy Savile, never quite coalesce into something that makes sense.


    1.  That is one ugly, scary mofo.  I would have never let my kids, my friends, or even any of my casual acquaintances go anywhere near that guy. 

    2. When somebody is suspected of a crime then everybody starts using the most creepy-looking photos they can find. Saville did have a habit of making faces at cameras but there’s still plenty where he doesn’t look like that.
      But nobody uses the others any more. This says something important about how things are reported.

      1. You’re right, but it isn’t exactly a neutral act to post a innocent-looking picture for such a person either. No matter what, you are going to be implying something.

        1. For about a week after it all came out, the BBC used this pic that was conspicuously flattering. It doesn’t mean anything — I bet it’s just what they had on record for Savile stories — but it always tells a story.

      2. There’s nothing unusual about this shot of Savile, which is clearly posed and intentional, and picked because it was a decent-quality image from the first page of “large” image results. This is what he wanted to look like and how he wanted to be portrayed. Asking that people select images “where he doesn’t look like that” is at least as conspicuous an act of storytelling. 

        Besides, this is *far* from the creepiest Savile shot. Plenty worse I can find in bare seconds:

    3. I think that would make an excellent bookend photo to one of the frightening Klaus Kinsky photos being used now.  Klaus was just accused of many years of sexual abuse by his eldest daughter.

      Two characters one would have been well advised in not accepting candy from.

      1. There are many far more frightening pictures of Klaus Kinski. Pretty much every picture of him is scarier than that. Edit: I didn’t see RobsWriting’s post.

        I don’t think Klaus was a genius or anything, he was just a genuinely volatile wild man. He would have done poorly in any role that was anything else.

    1. Jerry Lewis was (is) a handsome, personable guy with talent.  Not to mention beloved by the French.  Jimmy Savile has always been the kind of guy who made you want to get off the elevator when he got on.

  1. The worst of it: Jimmy Saville is the low-hanging, easy-to-expose fruit of this particular situation. He looks the part of the odd creepy old man, so he becomes the poster boy for Britain’s latest moral panic.

    There are people still out there who won’t *ever* be publicly named as being investigated by Operation Yew-tree.  These animals will get away scot free either because they aren’t safely dead; or because they have litigious surviving relatives; or because their exposure would cause terrible embarrassment in /really/ high places.

    Saville is the merest tip of a whole festering iceberg of power, entitlement and abuse in the UK.

    All that said, the report on this matter published today was a travesty of the investigative process. The co-authors – a Met Police detective and an NSPCC quangocrat – treated ‘accusation’ of abuse as synonymous with ‘proof’ (paragraph 2.4. “We are therefore referring to them as ‘victims’ rather than ‘complainants’ and are not presenting the evidence they have provided as unproven allegations.”).

    Blogger Anna Raccoon does an interesting deconstruction of the assumptions made and the language used:

    1. No, it’s not a moral panic. There are real people who have suffered real harm. The classic examples of moral panic are cases like witch-scares, blood libels, etc. where there was *no* original harm but the moral panic created real harm in response to imagined harm.

      1.  I’m sorry, I misspoke. For “moral panic” please read “orgy of prurient tabloid moralising”.

        1. If you refuse to take something seriously just because the tabloids are all over it, you’re allowing the tabloids to form your opinions just as much as if you agree with them.

        2. If you want an anti-pedogeddon angle to this, the unhindered reality of Savile’s 60-year campaign shows that the witch-hunt was never actually able to deal with witches. There’s nothing to gain by holding victims to arbitrary standards of evidence when it’s so overwhelmingly likely that most are telling the truth and that a great many remain silent.

    2. Given that there will be no prosecution, it seems reasonable to drop the “reasonable doubt” standard and consider the balance of evidence.

      1. After all those years of going commando in those nasty track suits, that fruit was probably very low-hanging and very overripe.

  2. Strange situation.

    I’ve never known directly of someone who did such things to children.

    I can tell because I haven’t called the police about someone who did that, testified in a court of law at a criminal trial on such a matter or killed/maimed someone in cold blood over a situation like that.

    I cannot fathom those who cannot say the above.

    1. I can fathom those who cannot say the above, from the point of view as a former child and victim…

      (edited to clarify: not of Jimmy Savile.)

      1. Yes they are out there, stranger still to me is when those with more perceived power ignore such offences or fail to act, as in the Sandusky case. Nothing but their own selves could have stopped the old coach and the school administrators from acting. Don’t want police, fine, weld him into a 50 gallon drum and drop him in a lake. 

    2. Many people, children and adults, reported him.  Most were dismissed because he was a somebody and they weren’t.  A few were limply investigated and dropped.

    3.  (As I write this I realise it’s a ‘friend of a friend’ tale, but nonetheless true as far as I know)
      The sister of a friend of mine was in hospital as a child, about 25 years ago.  Jimmy Savile was brought round to entertain the kiddies (as children’s entertainers often are), and while chatting to her leaned over and gave her a overly intimate kiss.
      For years after it was a family joke that she had her first snog with Jimmy Savile.
      My friend doesn’t find the story as funny now.

  3.  “Everyone always knew” – well, many people thought he was a bit odd and creepy and quite a few thought worse, but I don’t know that all that many people (apart from the victims) actually knew he was a paedophile and serial rapist, though plenty, for instance some of the nurses he came across, didn’t trust him. (Insofar as I thought about him at all, I think I thought he was asexual, with a fixation on his mother, and and that all the gurning and touching and hugging and girl-oriented talk on Top of the Pops and elsewhere was some kind of a cover for that… but as some police bod has said, in fact he was hiding in plain sight). The police were contacted a few times over decades, and the Crown Prosecution Service looked into a case or maybe two, and the tabloids were sniffing around (which is what prompted the exchange with Louis Theroux), but clearly no-one was able to pin anything on him while alive, or tried hard enough.

    Esther Rantzen, also a BBC presenter and the woman who set up ChildLine as a place for abused kids to phone in anonymously, got into trouble for having heard rumours about Savile and not doing anything about them; but I saw her on TV saying she had heard other rumours about herself and knew they were rubbish, so gave him the benefit of the doubt (besides, if she heard rumours then other people, not least those telling her those rumours, also heard them). I doubt if Margaret Thatcher or Prince Charles would have been allowed to have so many meetings with Savile if anyone had really known the truth – even with the £40million he raised for Stoke Mandeville (which may well be “superficial” but is not a trivial sum).

    The fact someone looks odd, like Savile, is not by itself proof of malfeasance. Chris Jefferies was landlord to Jo Yeates, who was murdered in Bristol a couple of years ago, and he got pretty well convicted of the murder by several tabloids (with, apparently, a bit of help from the police) who “knew” he was guilty; and he was certainly monstered by the press for having weird white comb-over hair while being 65 years old. But in fact it was a 32-yo Dutch neighbour with short neat hair who killed Yeates. Jefferies now has his hair cut short and dyed brown.

    1. Nobody did anything because the UK has a strong culture of kowtowing to anyone perceived as higher up the ladder.  More than their jobsworth to make any trouble.

      1. Isn’t that a bit like saying that the UK has a strong culture of being a human society? People perceived as being high up the ladder getting away with shit is a decent description of the human condition.

        1. Not universally.  People in the US are far more anti-authoritarian than in the UK, although not always in a particularly positive, useful or sane way.

          1. There’s a strong tradition of the UK tabloids building someone up and then knocking them down. The tall poppy syndrome. The Sun and Mirror are pretty anti-authoritarian.

          2. Unless someone talks trash about the President? Though that is usually said to be, “respect the post if not the man”.

          3. If you’re a government official, that might be a reasonable anti-hypocrisy rule, but for the rest of us, not so much.

          4. That’s fair, but at the same time, the US anti-authoritarian streak tends to focus on large scale government. The guy two notches up from you or me in the company hierarchy or sitting in a boring but powerful local government role still gets more kowtowing than is good for them, or anyone. If they’re looking to paper over something monstrous, city commissioners, sheriffs, and upper middle management get plenty of unwarranted or exaggerated deference in the US.

          1. My local supermarket is now selling the Morning Star. I’ll have to pick up a copy and check that out.

      2. The patrician BBC in trying to compete with commercial TV found itself beholden to unsavoury oiks. Who was higher and who was lower?

      3. Pedantic point: that should be “jobs worth” as “jobsworth” implies abusing a position of minor power.

        1. Jobsworth implies refusing to deviate in the slightest from protocol in order to help someone.
          – Can’t you let me ride the bus? I’m only short 1p and it’s three in the morning.
          – Nope. More than my job’s worth to make an exception.

    2. As you imply, it is inconceivable that Savile would have been able to have had the ongoing relationships (and influence) he did with Thatcher and the Royals without thorough vetting. MI5 will have at very least investigated him and therefore would know, as was already in the public record, the extant complaints, the rumours, and his connections to care home scandals in Wales and Jersey, connections with the Yorkshire Ripper ……. the list goes on. That this went no further and his influence with the most important people in the British establishment was not curtailed is the question that needs to be asked. That he met every Friday morning with a select group of important police officers, that his own nephew, and numerous other abused children from care homes are saying he was not only abusing but procuring children for the abuse of others is the real cause for concern. If these aspects were inverstigated with the same seriousness as those of the people he directly abused, the discussion around Jimmy Savile would be a very different one.

      1. Vetting for the royals is supremely incompetent. There was a convicted sex offender on the barge with the Queen during the Jubilee flotilla.

  4. Yeah, I may have a jaundiced eye here, but I am ALWAYS suspicious of any adult who goes out of their way to have unsupervised time with kids, especially those likely to be unable/unwilling to complain. 

    The other corollary to this:  Teachers aren’t usually in this group, but every time a teacher is found guilty of having sex with a student, they are always the “popular” or “cool” ones. 

    And yes to what Antonius said RE culture of kowtowing and not doing more than the job description.  In the UK it’s a great way to get fired (and increasingly becoming more that way in the US).

    1. And that’s why there are less and less volunteers for positions like Scout Leaders. There are something like 30,000+  kids on waiting lists to join the UK Scouts because there are not enough places available for them. Assumption of guilt is corrosive.

    2. You are incredibly jaundiced which is very sad. Most people who coaches, scout leaders, mentors, etc. do it because they like doing stuff, teaching people and genuinely like helping kids. There are bad people and we need to keep shining a bright light on their ugliness. Don’t belittle the majority of us who don’t sit around on our assess all day but instead prefer doing positive things with other humans.

      1. Nope. People get to have their suspicions. Following instinct, and saying no, especially when someone is “supposed to be trusted” is one of those things we need to value more. Even if its for no reason someone else can understand or respect at all.

        1. Actually, having frank and honest conversations with kids about sex, and teaching them what interactions with adults are o.k. is one of the things we need to value more, not treating every adult who works with kids as a potential child molester. 

          1. Valuing someone’s right to have suspicions is treating every adult as a potential child molester? From your comment I see that you don’t understand that child molestation is about about power, not sex, and the first way to set someone up for violence is to tell them they have no right to their own perspective. Its how all molesters first cross that boundary.

          2. Child molestation involves sexual touching, therefore it about sex on some level. Also, when you said “people,” I’m pretty sure you were referring to adults, whereas I’m talking about molestation from the child’s perceptive. You seem to be confusing adults and children. 

          3. I am for giving children information, however, because young kids are so naturally trusting, it’s hard to get them to see what you as an adult see as alarming. I’ll give you a real specific example. When my stepkids were about 8 (boy) and 10 (girl), their father and I took them to a roller skating rink. There was one man there with a fun Hawaiian shirt, mid-30’s, and no kids. He was very friendly to all the kids, going out of his way to interact with them, and they all seemed to like him. As parents, we found this man to be a real creeper. But when we asked our kids about him afterward, they said he seemed really nice. They didn’t find it suspicious at all that a 35 year old man was hanging out at a skating rink in the afternoon with no kids.

            And, read the details of the Penn State abuse. These kids were 7, 8, 9. Think about how much these kids would be able to relate some life story about “bad touching” to this nice man who was head of a charity for helping kids in need.

  5. I have to wonder what it might look like, if we devoted the kinds of resources we’re spending on security theater, and used it to locate and identify sexual predators. Instead of a war on terror, how about simply an end to rape, child and other? Talk about low hanging fruit!

    1. The same problems you have with identifying potential terrorists you have with identifying potential predators.  Is someone a predator if they go on 4chan or some other site and see pictures someone else posted?  Are they a predator if they read hentai?  People have been arrested for both.  Or do we just arrest people who actually perform acts with children?

      Does that mean we lock up the 18 year old who sleeps with the 16 year old?  Throw away the key?  What about the child who takes a picture of herself on Omegle when she’s thirteen and doesn’t know any better?

      I’m not advocating doing nothing, because that’s a tragedy, but saying we throw all our money and effort into it isn’t as easy as it sounds.  Also, plenty of people have been arrested or charged for all manner of things that may not be predatory in nature, but offends the local populace.  If anything, I think we have as much of a moral panic about some of these things, and a lot of “security theater.”  Especially with consenting minors being charged with possession of child pornography for pictures they took of themselves, people who paid for sex classified as sex offenders, etc.

      Now, in cases like Savile or Sandusky, not enough was done.  I would rather we bring the hammer down on the powers that let predators LIKE Savile and Sandusky continue to operate.  If we keep them honest, then we will have less events like this.

      1.  I hear you, but I think that another corollary of all of this is that witch hunts allow the truly guilty to hide/walk.  

      2. For one thing, child sexual abuse is a lot more common than terror attacks. And the victims more frequently can help with the investigation, assuming there ever is one.

         You’re probably right about the witch hunts and the phony mindreading and the urban legends: Most sexual abusers are known by the victim, and if it were easy to ID them, we’d already have more convictions.

         I guess in my fantasy, better, more imaginative law enforcement would be used to fight this kind of abuse than the keystone cops show that we see for terror war. 

        I suspect as with these mass shootings, we won’t be able to isolate just the most newsworthy events, we would have to make things safer all around.

         Put it this way- I never knew anyone who dies in the towers, I’ve never known anyone who was involved in a kidnapping, armed robbery or terror attack. But I’ve lost count of how many women I’ve dated who have told me they were sexually abused when young, and nothing was ever done about it. This suggests to me we could be spending our security energy more wisely.

        1. How about we take the budget from the War on Terror and spend it of foreign aid directed at the nations thought to produce terrorists… though I guess Blighty would come in for some of that aid due to the number of “Foreign Fighters” coming from our shores.

      3. In the UK, if a 15 year old has sex with his 15 year old girlfriend, the lad will end up on the Pervo List.

  6. Recently I heard of a teacher who was arrested for having sex with a student. How did I hear about it? Because her ex-students were experiencing extreme schadenfreude on Facebook and elsewhere, saying she was the worst teacher they had ever had. News don’t always provide an accurate picture, nor for that matter do they always report on the teacher’s personality, because the article is just a write-up of a preliminary police report. As tempting as simple truths are, it just creates blind spots that allows many predators to operate in peace.

    [stupid log-in system breaking the reply chain, this is meant as an answer to Jen Onymous claim of always “popular” and “cool” teachers]

    1.  Kelly,

      Yes, thank you.  I just had a conversation last night RE how major/large/structured corporations are fantastic places for sociopaths to hide and thrive.

      1. Jackson, you might recall, was actually acquitted. Polanski not only pled guilty but admitted his guilt in a later interview (and suggested that his prosecution was due to envy by members of the legal establishment that wanted to “fuck little girls”, as he had). Not the same thing at all.

        1. If people are interested in learning more about these cases, Vanity Fair did some excellent pieces on Jackson: links to all articles on him. Maureen Orth’s pieces are the ones on his abuse and trial. 

          Details of the Roman Polanski case are on the Smoking Gun:  

          Because RP’s abuse happened before my time, it was only during the recent outrage over his possible extradition that I had read the case details. The case is heartbreaking, not only for his behavior but the victim’s at her age.

  7. The “everyone always knew” line is what is really depressing, this started in the 50s. I hope there is a thorough enquiry into all the people who knew but didn’t say or do anything, all the victims who stayed quiet or where ignored for decades. Also, isn’t it just perfect that he was made a papal knight in 1990 by the pope.

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