Once the older girls had moved onto Norman Lodge, and Susan was back in her dormitory, she wrote to Savile – a ‘come back all is forgiven’ letter in her words, there no longer seemed any reason why he shouldn’t continue to visit her and be her friend. She liked him, he was a straight talking Yorkshireman, and he understood her teenage fears – he was not as far removed from teenage life as perhaps her parents might have appeared to her at that time, although she remained close to her parents.
Certainly there was no objection from the staff, even those who she felt had been disbelieving that he had never touched her inappropriately – perhaps that stance was part of their technique for trying to get what could have been an unpalatable ‘truth’ from her?
On one such visit to Susan, Savile was told of a young boy visiting Ms Jones, who by then was living in a house in the grounds (Hello? Meirion?) – he was very insistent that he wanted to meet this celebrity. Savile was not best pleased. He wasn’t ‘visiting Duncroft’ and thus ‘on duty’ as a celebrity – he was visiting his friend’s daughter. He reluctantly agreed. Susan looked out the window to see one of the Norman Lodge older girls getting in his car and being driven down the drive to Norman Lodge. Her old feelings of jealousy at the way in which her friendship with him was being usurped rose up again. She was told that the girl was sick, and he had offered her a lift for the short journey. She wasn’t best pleased.
On another occasion, Savile brought a tape recorder with him; he thought some of the girls might be able to make an intelligent contribution to his radio programme, but only those over 16 and at Norman Lodge were allowed to contribute. The Duncroft girls were to feature in a special edition of ‘Savile’s Travels’ – though they were only identified as ‘intelligent girls’. That recording is out there somewhere, a permanent record of the only time he took his camper van to Duncroft. It was only the older working girls from Norman Lodge who were allowed to set foot in the camper van, the younger girls still resident in Duncroft were recorded inside the building – security demanded that they were not allowed to roam the grounds.
He called to see her on another week-end, unaware that she had gone home on home leave – the staff arranged an impromptu picnic on the front lawn for all the girls – Susan only heard about it when she returned on the Monday. Then she was told by (name withheld) that Janet Theobold had arranged for the girls to go up to London in the mini-bus to see the London Marathon because Savile was taking part in it. Savile wasn’t expecting them – no one had told him, but he arranged for soft drinks for all the girls – and then took off running across the streets of London!
Susan had missed seeing him twice – but she arranged to see him on her home leave; with her Mother on one occasion, and alone on another – she particularly remembers that occasion because he bought her a tin of Sobrannie cigarettes, although he had always been very particular that cigarettes were a ‘treat’ that was only to be shared equally by the other girls and for that reason he always gave them to Ms Jones.
Eventually, Susan moved on to Norman Lodge herself. Savile visited her there several times, they would sit in the open seating area where people (there were usually six girls and 2 staff in Norman Lodge) would wander past at will. She was working as a telephonist and filing clerk in a local firm, so had access to a telephone and was able to keep in regular touch with Savile when he was working at Broadmoor. She was waiting for Savile in Norman Lodge on one occasion, when she heard of an argument brewing at Duncroft – apparently a new girl, aged 14, was under the impression that Savile was going to visit her! She never heard any more of this argument, but assumed that jealousy was rearing its head once again!
Susan herself points out that Duncroft was a small and intimate atmosphere, no more than 20 girls and at least 15 staff. Had Savile displayed any inappropriate behaviour towards any of the girls, someone would have been only too glad to have told her – to ‘put her in her place’ apart from any other consideration. It would have been seen as a ‘result’ for the person concerned. There was much jealousy amongst the older girls at her having such a ‘special friend’. She is still, to this day, nervous at possible retribution for having spoken out against the prevailing wisdom that Savile was a ‘monster’ who took every opportunity to abuse young defenceless girls.
She, herself, would have had no hesitation in reporting him to Ms Jones or more particularly her Mother. They were both, in her words, ‘strong women’ with a range of top level contacts, for whom Savile’s celebrity would have held no fears whatsoever.
Nor were the girls over awed by his celebrity. They quickly got used to having him around and lots of persuasion was dreamt up towards the possibility of being included on a TOTPs outing – but the minimum age had been raised to 16. He gave Ms Jones boxes of cigarettes to hand out to mollify them – which amounted to an extra ten cigarettes per girl on at least two occasions, in addition to the 20 they were allowed to buy from their own money.
Savile was not the only male in the vicinity of Duncroft. Other men came within its orbit – and also came under pressure from this group of teenage girls. There was a French teacher, hired specifically to help Susan and another (name withheld) with their French lessons. He left after three lessons, complaining that he was being asked provocative questions regarding his underwear and other matters that he considered inappropriate…..
Another man was the local priest, who never reappeared after one of the girls obtained a contraceptive and blew it up in front of him….
The history teacher was a film director, married to one of the doctors. Susan was most miffed to be excluded from a visit to his film studio to meet Sid James on the grounds that she was no longer going to his history lessons….
It was a febrile atmosphere.
She is mortified that a man she met, who became a friend of her parents, who behaved impeccably when he knew her true age, who she introduced to Duncroft, should have become the subject of so much puerile speculation. She is deeply hurt on seeing phrases in the media such as ‘he treated Duncroft like a sweet shop and took his pick of the girls’ – when in her opinion, the only trouble he ever caused at Duncroft was that he didn’t ‘take his pick of the girls’ and created an outburst of jealousy that she, as the new girl, should have been given this ‘special friend’. She regrets now, that at times she allowed her own teenage jealousy to surface whenever he tried to appear even handed and share records and cigarettes with the other girls.
She says that her friendship with him came not so very long after his Mother died, when he was feeling lonely – the life of a DJ may be glamorous, but it can be lonely; travelling around the country, constantly working so that others may enjoy the evening, dancing and laughing whilst you are thinking about what to say next to keep the atmosphere ‘happy’; moving from town to town – and that, through her, and her Mother, he came to see Duncroft as a place where he had a substitute ‘family’ where someone was always ‘at home’ and he was always welcome.
She feels guilty and saddened that this has been turned into the making of a ‘monster’ legend.
You may wonder why you have never heard of Susan before.
That would be because the girls who made the original complaint to Surrey police in 2007 never mentioned her – it was all about them. They didn’t tell the police that Savile was visiting the ‘new girl’, not Duncroft. The police didn’t interview any of the Duncroft staff, nor contact MIND or Barnardos, so they had no idea beyond the media version as to how Savile had ever come in contact with the place.
Even Operation Outreach, the latest inquiry into the ‘Savile days’ at Duncroft would not have interviewed Susan had she not made contact with them herself and insisted on telling them the whole story. They have now video-d a three day interview with her.
She would like to give evidence to the Dame Janet Smith inquiry, in view of all the trouble that has been caused to the BBC by this saga – but curiously, although Surrey Police gave her their blessing to give evidence there, the interviewed was vetoed by the Metropolitan police, in charge of Operation Yewtree, for reasons they haven’t disclosed – they don’t want Dame Janet Smith to hear this version of events in the foreseeable future.
She stayed in touch with Savile, he would arrive for lunch with her parents – and was surprised when she met him in the 80s to hear that he had been invited back to Duncroft to attend a fete by one of the then current girls. He said he didn’t enjoy it, and didn’t feel comfortable in the atmosphere ‘everything had changed’ he said, although the staff were the same.
She has said that if there is any truth in the allegations, she would be deeply saddened to hear that her friendship with Jimmy Savile might have been the catalyst for any hurt to anyone – she cannot think of any occasion on which he might have had the opportunity to abuse anyone – other than herself. She never heard, other than when she was questioned by Janet Theobold about unspecified, both in respect of the recipient, and of the nature of the allegations, of any question of inappropriate behaviour.
And she is adamant, that he never did so abuse her, nor would have done.
She speaks of ’emotional contagion’ in respect of the allegations. If one or two people decide it might be a fine idea to rush out of a crowded theatre shouting ‘Fire!’ then the rest of the audience have their own reasons for following them, even if they haven’t witnessed any fire. Some may merely believe they are being helpful and responsible; others may have had previous experience of being in a burning building and truly believe they could see smoke. Some could merely have not enjoyed the show and be hopeful that this event might signify the return of their money.
Large numbers of people exciting the theatre doesn’t signify that there is a fire; nor do they deserve the pejorative term ‘Liars!’ It is considerably more complex than that.
The Savile Scandal has affected my Mother and I. I have to live for the rest of my life wondering what sort of person I allowed into my heart.
If any Duncroft girl experienced abuse, why did she not warn me or anyone else because she would have been putting others at risk by not doing so? The girls only had to say something to me and JS would have been OUT. 15 year old girls can be very provocative and it is likely that I was not the only one who tried putting temptation his way, however, he did not fall for it.
I remember talking to JS about the secret cameras at Duncroft which we were never sure about. Perhaps JS believed he was safe with the cameras although there really was nowhere for him to be alone with anyone. He wandered between the two common rooms and the office or staff room to use the WC. Nobody was allowed upstairs and Miss Keenan had silent shoes which meant she could appear at even the slightest whispering of sin.
Hah! The ‘secret cameras’ rumour was still doing the rounds all those years later, eh? We were always paranoid as to how the staff managed to know everything we planned – we never did figure out that they were just that much cleverer than us – no, it had to be secret cameras…
And Bridie Keenan still had the soft shoes…nowt much had changed!
[Picture of Jimmy Savile lifted from Jonathan King’s latest hour long epic which contains some interesting reflections on Jimmy Savile]