Former BBC celebrity Jimmy Savile accused of scores of sexual assaults in hospitals


Jimmy Savile in 1986  (John Redman/AP)

An official report released this morning accused the late BBC celebrity DJ Jimmy Savile of sexually assaulting hundreds of people age 5 to 75 over several decades in British health facilities, according to news reports.

The abuse allegedly occurred, among other places, at National Health Service hospitals that gave Savile unrestricted access because of his charitable work and his appointment to a task force overseeing medical facilities. He reportedly had the keys to some of the hospitals and came and went as he pleased.

Savile, who died at the age of 84 in 2011, was a popular personality from the 1960s on. He moved in high political circles, keeping company with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and others. He was knighted, and became Sir Jimmy Savile, reportedly at her urging. There is no evidence that she was aware of his misconduct.

Scandalous details about Savile started emerging after his death in 2011. But the report by the United Kingdom’s Department of Health appears to be the most detailed accounting yet.

According to the BBC, the British Department of Health report released this morning said that:

  • Sixty people came forward to say they had been abused between 1962 and 2009. Thirty-three of the 60 were patients and 19 were children.
  • Young teenagers recovering from surgery, were abused in their beds at Leeds General Infirmary.
  • Savile posed for photos with and abused corpses in the Leeds General Hospital mortuary.
  • During the 1980s hospital officials allowed him to watch female patients strip and shower naked in front of staff, all the while making inappropriate comments.
  • One 10-year-old boy was sexually assaulted while he waited on a trolley for an X-ray on a broken arm.
  • The encounters took place on wards, in lifts, in corridors, in offices and off site in a local cafe, in his mother’s house and in his camper van, which he parked in the hospital garage, said the Guardian, reporting this morning about the report.

In a statement, the current U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, saying the revelations would “shake our country to the core,” apologized on behalf of the government. “We let them down badly,” he said of the victims. “As a nation, at that time we held Savile in our affection as a somewhat eccentric national treasure with a strong commitment to charitable causes. Today’s report shows that in reality he was a sickening and prolific sexual abuser who repeatedly exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes.”

“This is a profoundly shocking report in which for the first time we are able to gain a clear picture of the abuse perpetrated by Jimmy Savile during his involvement with our hospitals in Leeds, in particular Leeds general infirmary,” Julian Hartley, chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS trust,  told the Guardian.

“On behalf of the previous Department of Health and Social Security, and Department of Health, we are deeply sorry that inadequate processes in 1988 enabled Jimmy Savile to occupy a position of authority that he used to abuse his victims at Broadmoor Hospital,” said Una O’Brien, a top official of the Department of Health.

The BBC’s reputation was damaged by the revelation that “Newsnight,” its version of “60 Minutes,” was about to expose Savile in December, 2011 and that officials spiked the program at the last minute, purportedly because of a lack of evidence.

The new report is summarized here.

Fred Barbash, the editor of Morning Mix, is a former National Editor and London Bureau Chief for the Washington Post.
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