Ms Rantzen, who was in Dublin yesterday to address a positive aging event at Croke Park, was speaking in light of new claims from a number of people that they were sexually abused or raped by Savile, who died last year at the age of 84.
A television documentary entitled Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile will air on ITV tomorrow night and contains several claims from different women that they were sexually abused in the 1970s.
Among the claims are that girls as young as 14 were molested by Savile in a Rolls Royce and at the BBC Television Centre.
The programme also features a 2009 recording of Savile talking in support of former glam rock star Gary Glitter, who was jailed in the UK for child pornography offences and in Vietnam for child sex offences.
In the recording he says: “Now Gary, all he did was to take his computer into PC World to get it repaired. They went into the hard drive, saw all these dodgy pictures and told the police and the police then said ‘Oh we’ve got a famous person ... Oh my goodness, yeah we’ll have them’.”
Ms Rantzen, founder of the child protection charity ChildLine and a former BBC television presenter, appears in the programme and said yesterday Savile’s iconic status in Britain meant making allegations against him was similar to making sex abuse allegations against priests.
“We are talking about a very, very serious crime. So rumour and gossip is not enough,” she said.
“And I gather there were police investigations and some of the allegations were put to him by interviewers but he just batted them back and at the time it was a bit like the situation with the abusive priests, that when you have got somebody who has an iconic status in a community or in a nation children feel that they are absolutely helpless, and in fact you will see in the programme that one young person did say what he had done to her and she was punished for it.”
She described Savile as “a very strange individual” who “cultivated this eccentricity”. She said she respected BBC executives working at the time and queried whether they had felt Savile was “beyond criticism” as he had been knighted by the Queen and celebrated by a pope.
“Who knows how many more [victims] there are?” she said. “I would not be surprised [if more people come forward]”.
Yesterday broadcaster Paul Gambaccini became the latest person to outline his faith in the claims, arguing that Savile had used his charity fundraising work as a lever to prevent his private life being exposed. He said Savile, with whom he worked with on BBC radio 1, played tabloids “like a Stradivarius” to keep any allegations of impropriety quiet.
Relatives of Savile have criticised the allegations, claiming there is no proof.
However, it emerged yesterday that Savile was interviewed under caution by Surrey police in 2007 about sexual assault claims dating back to the 1970s.
The investigation was dropped after the Crown Prosecution Service advised that there was insufficient evidence for a prosecution.