Late British TV star Jimmy Savile abused 60 patients, staff and visitors at a hospital he raised money for, investigators say, highlighting the scale of abuse he committed under the cloak of celebrity.
A total of 177 people, mainly women or girls, say that Savile – one of the BBC’s top presenters in the 1970s and 1980s, known for his eccentric dress sense and love of cigars – abused them from 1954 onwards.
The latest allegations emerged in a new series of reports which help lift the lid on the full extent of his crimes, which only emerged after his death in 2011. This has prompted questions about why they were not detected earlier.
“People were either too dazzled or too intimidated by the nation’s favourite celebrity to confront the evil predator we now know he was,” Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons in a statement on Thursday.
“Because of his celebrity and useful fundraising skills, the right questions, the hard questions, were simply not asked,” Hunt said.
Liz Dux, a lawyer representing 44 of the victims, said it “beggars belief” that the report found no evidence of senior managers knowing about the abuse.
“Those people who did know what Savile was up to and to whom direct reports were made will get away scot-free,” she said. “It’s simply, I’m afraid, a whitewash.”
It is thought that Savile abused people in 41 acute hospitals – nearly a quarter of the total number in England.
Sixty of the allegations centre on Stoke Mandeville hospital northwest of London, where Savile was “given the run” of the facility, including his own flat, after being appointed as a fundraiser by Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1980.
It is claimed he committed offences against patients, staff and visitors there ranging from rape to sexual touching between 1969 and 1992.
Victims of Savile, who worked as a voluntary porter at the hospital, included some young patients with spinal injuries, which the hospital specialises in treating.
While staff there saw him as a “sex pest”, nine complaints made against him were not referred to senior management, the report into what happened at Stoke Mandeville found.
His youngest victim was aged eight and the oldest was 40 and they included patients, staff and visitors.
Savile is also known to have abused patients at facilities including Broadmoor, a high-security psychiatric hospital west of London, and the main hospital in his home city of Leeds, northern England.
An investigation into the culture at the BBC when Savile is accused of committing abuse there is still gathering evidence, along with other probes into his actions at National Health Service (NHS) facilities.