JOHN F. BURNS and
Published: October 25, 2012
LONDON — The number of people who said they were sexually assaulted
by Jimmy Savile, one of Britain’s most popular television hosts,
expanded to 300 from 200 in just the last week, and other people may
have acted with him, the Scotland Yard officer heading the investigation
Enlarge This Image
Mark Allan/BBC, via Press Association, via AP Images
An undated photograph of Jimmy Savile. Hundreds of
people have come forward to accuse him of sexually abusing them.
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The officer, Cmdr. Peter Spindler, described Mr. Savile, who died last October at 84,
as “undoubtedly” one of the most prolific sex offenders in recent
British history, during a 50-year career as a self-styled pied piper for
the young, the sick and the lonely. Commander Spindler said that in
preliminary telephone interviews with 130 of the potential victims, 114
of them had accused Mr. Savile of criminal behavior ranging from
“inappropriate touching” to rape. Of the 300 complainants, he said, all
but 2 have been female.
Commander Spindler said the “vast majority” of the accusations logged by
the police were against Mr. Savile alone, with the remainder involving
Mr. Savile and others or episodes in which the entertainer was not
implicated. Although the commander specified that investigators had
found no evidence of a “pedophile ring,” as some published accounts in
Britain have suggested, he said that a number of “living people” were
Later, an article on the BBC’s news Web site quoted “sources close to Scotland Yard,”
whom it did not further identify, as saying the police were looking at
some “figures of high standing” who might have helped Mr. Savile. “It is
thought investigations are looking at those who may have assisted
Savile, helped organize abuse, cover it up or taken part in assaults
themselves,” the BBC story said.
An article on The Guardian’s Web site, citing no sources, said the newspaper “understands” that “names of at least three doctors”
who worked at hospitals linked to Mr. Savile over decades had been
passed to police investigators, with “claims that they were at the heart
of a loose network of child abusers connected with Savile.”
The Guardian story noted that Mr. Savile kept an office and living quarters at the Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security psychiatric treatment center in Berkshire, and a bedroom in the Stoke Mandeville Hospital,
in Buckinghamshire, which has one of the largest units in the world
that specializes in spinal injuries; both institutions are close to
London. The newspaper also said he was given “free rein” at Leeds General Infirmary, in the northern industrial city where he was born and where he found his first job as a boy, working in a mine.
Commander Spindler said his investigation, code-named Operation Yewtree,
had not yet led to any arrests, but he implied that they might not be
far off when he said that the police were preparing “an arrest
strategy.” In the meantime, he said, police investigators were
proceeding cautiously with Mr. Savile’s accusers, spending as much as
four hours on each initial interview.
“This may be the first time that some people have actually spoken in any
detail, and we don’t underestimate how significant an event it is for
them to disclose sexual abuse,” he said.
Commander Spindler, who spoke at a news conference and in interviews
with British news organizations, did nothing to allay the shock that the
Savile scandal has caused across Britain. The weight of the evidence
against Mr. Savile, he said, is overwhelming, not least because of the
similarities in what the accusers have told the team of officers —
raised to 30 in recent days, from an original group of 10 — about the
“We have to believe what they are saying, because they are saying the same thing independently,” he said.
The BBC reported on Wednesday that Mr. Savile, a bachelor, was
investigated but never prosecuted for sexual abuse at least half a dozen
times during a television career in which he presented himself as an
irrepressibly jaunty figure with a vocation to spread happiness into
some of the most vulnerable corners of society. But a cascade of
revelations in the past month have suggested that his wildly successful
programs, “Top of the Pops” and “Jim’ll Fix It,” as well as charitable
work that raised tens of millions and made him a tireless visitor to
hospitals, nursing homes and institutions for the emotionally and
psychologically disturbed, were vehicles for another career, as a
relentless sexual predator.
The scandal has thrown his employer, the BBC, into one of the greatest
crises in its 90-year history as Britain’s revered public service
broadcaster, drawing in several senior figures there, including its
current director general, George Entwistle, who took over in September
from Mark Thompson, the incoming president and chief executive of The New York Times Company.
Mr. Thompson was director general of the BBC when the editor of a
current affairs program canceled an investigation into Mr. Savile late
last year, just as other divisions were planning Christmastime tributes
to him, two months after his death.
Mr. Thompson has said repeatedly that he knew nothing about the
investigation by the current affairs program, “Newsnight,” while it was
under way; had no role in canceling it; and had heard none of the
suspicions about Mr. Savile. He has agreed to answer questions from
Parliament and from the independent investigators examining the events
at the BBC.
The police, the National Health Service and other institutions have been
shaken by what the disclosures have shown, and the political shock
waves have led the prime minister, David Cameron, to demand that the
BBC, in particular, account for its failure to protect Mr. Savile’s
victims, some of whom were said to have been abused in his BBC dressing
Commander Spindler suggested the scandal and the subsequent
investigation of the sexual abuse of children would have a cathartic
impact on Britain. He said the events of the past month had been “a
watershed” that would force public institutions to develop new and
tougher programs to detect and combat the sexual exploitation of
children, push the police to intensify their own procedures and
encourage victims to come forward.
“I think what’s happened with this inquiry,” he said, “is that they do have a voice, and that they will be heard.”
John F. Burns reported from London, and Alan Cowell from Paris.
A version of this article appeared in print on October 26, 2012, on page A12 of the New York edition with the headline: Police Prepare ‘Arrest Strategy’ as BBC Sexual Abuse Case Grows.
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