He went from being a beloved star to one of the most notorious and shocking criminals, whose crimes implicated both British institutions and some of the highest-ranking politicians.
For decades, Jimmy Savile molested, raped and abused. He operated seemingly without fear of being found out and in fact, hid very much in plain sight.
The details of what he did are wicked and sordid. These are some of the most unbelievable parts.
1. No one was safe
Part of what makes Jimmy Savile such a horrific case is that he was incredibly prolific. His reported crimes begin as early as 1955 and weren’t properly revealed until after his death, at the age of 84, in 2011. One report into them numbered 700 pages. During that time, he was knighted.
What’s more, he didn’t target any one particular demographic. The people he abused were male and female, some were teenagers or young women, and many were children—both boys and girls (the youngest thought to be only two years old). Others were as old as 75. They included a pregnant woman, a paralysed 19-year-old woman and a ten-year-old boy who asked for his autograph, in one of the earliest incidents of abuse reported to the police.
He was known as being ‘opportunistic’. He was a television star, hosting Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It and his celebrity opened doors: up to 1,000 victims were abused on BBC premises, in virtually every building and sometimes even on live TV. After that, he segued into life as a philanthropist, who publicly worked to fundraise for charities. He was eccentric, but that was part of his image. As a result, he was continuously given access to the people that became his victims.
2. He specifically targeted the vulnerable
Despite having zero qualifications, Savile volunteered at several hospitals during his life, which gave him access to vulnerable patients, but also staff and visitors. Reports of rape, assault and other inappropriate behaviour dogged Savile from various patients across different hospitals and institutions.
At Leeds General Infirmary, he was accused of assaulting a woman with brain damage, who was unable to defend herself. At Stoke Mandeville, 60 men and women reported abuse at the hands of Savile. One was an 11-year-old cancer patient. A female patient at Digby Hospital in Exeter, a psychiatric hospital, was raped by him in his caravan.
At Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital he was given an office, a bedroom and his own set of keys to the wards. 11 people reported being abused by Savile there.
He was linked to abuse that occurred at Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey.
46 sexual assaults occurred at Duncroft, a girls school in Surrey for emotionally disturbed teenagers - five while it was under the care of the children’s charity Barnardo’s. While some happened off-site, like in Savile’s car, much of the other abuse continued on the school’s grounds, including in communal areas and the principal’s office.
3. The necrophilia rumours
Savile didn’t only target the living. Thanks to a friendship with the chief mortician, he was given free access to the mortuary at Leeds. He spoke publicly about his fascination with the dead and confessed to a nurse at Broadmoor that he enjoyed interfering with the bodies, including posing the bodies of men and women and photographing them.
He also claimed he committed sexual acts on the bodies, including oral sex.
4. His rings
‘Interfering’ with bodies included removing parts of them and making them into jewellery. When someone noticed Savile’s large rings, he claimed they were made of glass eyes he had stolen from corpses -one from a close friend. Another was made into a pendant necklace, which he then wore for the final Top of the Pops.
5. His relationship with his mother
Savile was known for being devoted to his mother. They lived together until she died. As the youngest of seven children, he spoke about how he never had her to himself. Until that is, she died.
In an interview with BBC psychiatrist Anthony Clare, he talked about how, after his mother’s death, he stayed with her body for five days in their home. To quote: “There she was lying around so to me they were good times.” He even revealed he slept next to her dead body.
6. Victims were ignored
Savile’s victims did speak out at the time. Patients at various hospitals were dismissed or told not to speak out about abuse, or they’d get the staff in trouble. Others said they didn’t want to come forward, for fear the celebrity would be believed over them.
His celebrity protected him and gave him further access. At Moss Side Hospital in Leeds, patients were encouraged to sit on his knee to have their photo taken with him. While there, he physically assaulted them.
One victim, who was abused at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said Savile committed the abuse in front of a camera crew, while they laughed. A young boy was molested in his Rolls-Royce, behind tinted windows.
Crimes were reported to the police but taken no further. In 2009, Savile was even questioned by CPS, but the investigation was dropped.
7. He was powerfully connected
One of the most horrifying parts of the Savile case is that many people knew what was going on at the time. An ex-police officer said it was known in the force he was a paedophile; several celebrities reported hearing gossip, rumours or jokes about him; BBC executives knew and took no action.
Savile even took part in a now infamous Louis Theroux documentary, in which Theroux questioned him about the rumours, but confessed to liking him anyway.
Part of the reason it was covered up? Savile was protected by contacts in the highest places, including Margaret Thatcher, who pushed for him to receive a knighthood, despite warnings from senior civil servants who argued Savile could ‘exploit’ the honour.
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