There it is. Evendon’s Lane, Wokingham. ‘X’ marks the spot. I have finally nailed down the origins of the ‘Savile was a monster’ legend – the greatest media hype this century.
Today the site holds a collection of ‘executive’ four and five bed-roomed red brick homes. Once, though, it was the site of ‘Ed’s Barn’, a country club and function hall.
It was at Ed’s Barn in 1973 that a momentous meeting took place. The Manager was panicking slightly – a large Christmas party of over 100 was expected and he was short of staff. He called for ‘all hands on deck’.
Thus it was that young Susan found herself granted permission to wear rather more make-up than usual, in an effort to look as though she was 18 at least – her Mother had agreed that she could work alongside her that night serving the unexpected party – ostensibly in the kitchens, but the Manager plucked young Susan from the throng of helpers to serve the punch that was to be offered to all the guests.
As 7.30pm arrived, so did the guests, and Susan moved amongst them – ‘ a glass of punch, Sir’ – ‘No thanks, I’m on early call’ – ‘Nope, I’m on late shift’ – no one it seemed, wanted the punch. There was something else curious about the party – they were virtually all male. Gradually, as she listened to the conversation around her, it dawned on her that they were possibly all policemen.
She did her best to melt into the background, and yet still serve the guests; for Susan had a slightly guilty secret, and not just that she was not 18. She had a year or so earlier, fallen in with the ‘wrong crowd’ and as a result had fallen foul of the law – and been sent away to an approved school. She was still close to her Mother, and was enjoying a week-end break from the school.
It hardly sounds like a scenario that would come close to toppling the BBC does it? – Yet it was.
For the guests that night had invited a guest of their own to entertain them. A celebrity. Susan was of the opinion that he was a ‘celebrity look-alike’ – but eventually she found herself talking to him, proffering a glass of punch – that was refused.
‘You do look like Jimmy Savile’ she said. ‘That is because I am Jimmy Savile’ said he.‘Have a glass of punch’ said she. ‘No’, he said, ‘I don’t drink. Don’t drink, don’t do drugs’.
She liked him, he had an easy manner. He appeared to like her; she was flattered, but not that flattered – she was, after all, virtually the only youngish woman in sight, so she was of the opinion that he didn’t have a huge choice of women to talk to that night. Still, she was surprised and delighted when he offered her his phone number.
She told her Mother, and later her Father, when she was safely back home – ‘he wants to see me again’ she said. ‘Hmmn’, said dubious Father, ‘he must be nearly 40 – does he know how old you are?’ ‘No’, she said, ‘but I promise I will tell him’. She was then, and still is, a truthful girl.
And she kept her promise. She telephoned Savile the next day, who said he would love to meet her again, and invited her to No.4 Broadmoor Cottages, opposite the main entrance to Broadmoor Hospital, where he was currently working. He would send someone to collect her. She went, with her parents blessing.
This was turning into an exciting ‘week-end leave’.
When she arrived, Savile hugged her and gave her a quick peck on the cheek – she was embarrassed – not because the attention was unwelcome, but because she needed to confess her guilty secret and didn’t want to get into a situation where Savile might regret his actions. She thought he might be cross with her.
Besides, she hadn’t viewed this meeting as the start of a long term relationship; Savile was just an older man, and his invitation held out the possibility of one last dabble with drugs before returning to Duncroft.
They toured the cottage, and eventually lay on a bed side by side – at Susan’s invitation. The sliver of LSD she had taken was starting to take effect. Not so much that she didn’t know what was happening. Savile, laying beside what he believed to be a consenting 18 year old was visibly sexually excited – why not, she was a very attractive young woman. He fiddled with her bra strap.
“I was talking to Mr Savile in the ground floor front room which was designed as an office. Office chairs had been left in a row from an earlier meeting and I sat about 4 chairs away from him until he invited me over for a hug. There was a brief intimate sort of kiss but I moved away and carried on as though nothing had happened. I did not mind the kiss but was concerned what he would say if he found out how old I really was. He obviously asked me if I was working or studying and the answer of course was, away at young ladies college and helping out at Ed’s Barn occasionally. He invited me upstairs to see his unusual collection of clothes in a cold attic room. My attention was taken by the incredibly cozy looking bed which he told me I could sit on. He plugged in an electric fire and showed me some enormous platform shoes and clothes he had worn on the TV. We had been talking for 2-3 hours so had well and truly broken the ice. I took my shoes off and lay down and not long after Mr Savile lay down beside me saying not to worry “its ok for two people to lay on a bed together and talk.” This was about the time my mild dose of LSD was kicking in. Yes! Mr Savile was getting fresh but stopped when I mentioned the flowers coming out of the pretty wallpaper. He stood up and adjusted the zip on his trousers. At this point he had probably clicked that I had taken something unless he thought I was mad? “
Susan took advantage of a brief lull in the conversation to say ‘There’s something I need to tell you’ – and she did. She told him that she was actually only 15, was currently resident in Duncroft School, and that she had had some involvement with drugs.
‘Only 15’, a ‘vulnerable young woman’ ‘under the influence of drugs’ – if Savile was the monster he has been portrayed as, this was the moment you would expect to hear that he leapt on her with gay abandon; she was alone, defenceless, and fitted exactly the profile of his alleged ‘victims’.
I’m sorry to disappoint you – he didn’t. In fact he was appalled, and behaved exactly as you would expect a responsible adult to behave in this situation. He sat bolt upright, zipping up his trousers.
He demanded to know who had been selling her drugs, and where he could find this man. He was, he explained, virulently anti-drugs, and angry that anyone would exploit a young girl.
He plugged in a small electric fire to keep her warm, and was obviously concerned that she shouldn’t return home ‘under the influence’. She reassured him that she hadn’t taken an entire ‘tab of acid’, but only a very small sliver that would wear off in half an hour.
He said it was time she went home, but whilst they were waiting for the driver to take her back to her parents, he found a package of demonstration records, and attached a note to them explaining who they were from – for the Head Mistress of Duncroft, and promised to stay in touch. She was left in no doubt that she was ‘out of bounds’ as far as he was concerned.
She returned to Duncroft on the Sunday night clutching the collection of demonstration records and memories of her exciting week-end.
To be continued….