Film-maker Louis Theroux, who tried to unravel Jimmy Savile’s private life on-screen, said today his thoughts were “with the victims” following claims the Jim’ll Fix It star had sexually abused schoolgirls.
The broadcaster spoke out to say the rumours which had been circulating appeared to have been “validated” by the women who have come forward to speak about their alleged treatment by the late Sir Jimmy in a TV documentary.
Exposure: The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile, is due to be screened on Wednesday and details claims from women dating to the 1970s that he had abused girls in his Rolls-Royce and at BBC Television Centre.
One woman tells the programme how she met Sir Jimmy at a school in Surrey in 1974 when she was 14 and he assaulted her in his caravan which was parked in the school grounds.
A former colleague of the late Top Of The Pops host alleged today that Sir Jimmy had used his charity fundraising work as a way of preventing his private life being exposed.
Radio host Paul Gambaccini, who said he had waited 30 years for these stories to come out, suggested the veteran presenter had threatened newspapers that his charity cash would dry up if they published the allegations.
He told ITV1’s Daybreak programme: “On (one) occasion, and this cuts to the chase of the whole matter, he was called and he said ’well you could run that story, but if you do there goes the funds that come in to Stoke Mandeville – do you want to be responsible for the drying up of the charity donations?’. And they backed down.”
Flamboyant bachelor Savile – known to millions for his TV and radio appearances over many years – died last year at the age of 84.
Theroux, who featured him in one of his When Louis Met … BBC programmes, said today: “So the rumours seem to have been in some degree validated. I haven’t seen ITV’s expose on Jimmy Savile yet, but from what I understand there are a number of credible accounts from underaged teenage girls of Jimmy abusing his position of trust and celebrity to procure sexual favours.
“What is especially disturbing is the nature of the alleged abuse – the fact that it apparently took place repeatedly, in the workplace and at a school he was visiting, and that it may have been known to his bosses and co-workers. My thoughts are with the victims. I hope they find peace.”
Members of the Jim’ll Fix It star’s family and friends have expressed their upset that the allegations are being made when the presenter is no longer around to defend himself.
Roger Foster, Sir Jimmy’s nephew, said his family was “disgusted and disappointed” by the programme.
Mr Foster, from Goole, East Yorkshire, said he was not only concerned for Sir Jimmy’s reputation, but also for the damage the allegations could do to his charities.
“The guy hasn’t been dead for a year yet and they’re bringing these stories out. It could affect his legacy, his charity work, everything. I’m very sad and disgusted,” he said.
“I just don’t understand the motives behind this. I just think it’s very, very sad you can say these things after someone’s died and the law says you can’t defend yourself when you’re dead.”
A spokesman for ITV defended its programme, saying: “This documentary is the result of an in-depth investigation into long-standing allegations of serious and widespread sexual misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile. Because of the very serious nature of the claims made by several interviewees in relation to this, particular care and consideration was of course given to the decision to produce and broadcast this programme.
“The programme takes full account of the fact that Sir Jimmy is not here to defend himself against these claims.”
ITV said the programme, presented by former detective Mark Williams-Thomas, features contributions from several women who claim that Sir Jimmy was a sexual predator who sexually assaulted them while they were under-age.
One woman alleges that she was raped by the DJ and another says she was asked to perform a sex act on him. ITV said one of the contributors explained how she was too frightened to speak out while Sir Jimmy was alive.
They said the programme will allege the broadcaster preyed on teenagers whom he invited to appear on his TV shows.
Sir Jimmy had raised millions of pounds over the years for his pet cause, Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
Trustees of his charity said they feared the programme’s allegations would have an adverse effect on their work.
In a statement, they said: “As the trustees of the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust, we are saddened by any proposed television documentary which alleges that the late Sir Jimmy Savile committed acts of underage sexual abuse. The publication of such grave allegations may affect the charitable trust, which supports so many good causes.”
The Trust pointed out that Surrey Police investigated allegations against him in 2007. The matter was passed to the Crown Prosecution Service which took no further action.
The Trust continued: “We are conscious of the dedication and effort that Sir Jimmy made throughout his lifetime to charity. He raised more than £40m (€50m) for good causes, giving away 90% of his income.
“The broadcast of such serious allegations, which by their very nature will be one-sided, may impact on the charitable trust and its endeavours.”
ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, who worked for the BBC during the 1970s, told the programme that she now believes Sir Jimmy sexually abused underage girls, after seeing the fresh evidence from the interviews in ITV1’s Exposure programme.
“We all blocked our ears to the gossip,” she said.
“We made him into the Jimmy Savile who was untouchable, who nobody could criticise. Jim’ll Fix It was for children. He was a sort of God-like figure. Everybody knew of the good that Jimmy did and what he did for children. And these children were powerless,” she said.
The programme feature a 2009 recording of Sir Jimmy talking in support of Gary Glitter, who was jailed in the UK for child porn 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 ’Oh we’ve got a famous person … Oh my goodness, yeah we’ll have them’.”
The BBC said it had found no evidence of any misconduct by Sir Jimmy during his time the broadcaster.
“The BBC has conducted extensive searches of its files to establish whether there is any record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. No such evidence has been found,” it said in a statement.