The BBC was off to a cracking start this morning – commencing with the ceremonial hurling of the sacrificial spent carcass of yet another DJ from the top of BBC Towers to the waiting mob below – Tony Blackburn.
Although from early morning the BBC news continually trailed the expected interviews with the ‘legal advisors’ of the victims – by 9am I had given up waiting to see Ms Dux and co; Richard Scorer did appear on the ITV ‘This Morning’ sofas.
I turned over to BBC2 – to see Joanna Gosling standing in for Victoria Derbyshire interviewing yet another brave victim who had selflessly given up his anonymity – Kevin Cook. Kevin went to ‘Jim’llfixit’ as part of a large scout pack. He alleges Savile took him to his dressing room when he saw how disappointed he was that they didn’t get individual badges, rather than a large badge for the whole troop.
‘He took me to a small dressing room. I don’t think it was his because it was really shabby, a dingy little room.
‘He said “Do you want to earn your badge?” and he sat me on a chair in the middle of the room.
‘He put his hand on my knee and then tried to put his fingers up the bottom of my shorts before he unzipped them and touched me. Then he made me put my hand on top of his trousers.
‘There was a knock at the door and someone came in but said “Oops” and left. In hindsight, I think he [Savile] knew what he was doing and stood between me and the door so that no one would see what he was doing.’
Kevin now says that after telling his wife this story following the death of Savile, she phoned the police ‘within two or three minutes’; he also says he had an offer from the media for his story, payment for which he was determined to give to charity…eventually he declined ‘the’ offer and ‘went to the press himself’ (no mention of where payment ended up this time).
Something about talking to the press was ‘a release’ for him, he felt stronger, more confident, which obviously explains why, when he was snapped up for an interview with Victoria Derbyshire in January 2013, he was able to disclose further…and further…now it seems that Savile’s crime was laughing whilst this second man:
“walked into the room and carried on the abuse. He made me do stuff to him and he physically abused me as well, he hit me. How can you tell your mum and your dad that you were forced to give oral sex to somebody and then they physically hit you afterwards, and Jimmy Savile there laughing? “But I’m no longer scared now, and if the police find him I’m going to face him and I will get some justice.”
Kevin declined to name the second man this morning. Did he tell Dame Janet this fuller story in person? I do hope so, given that he now holds strong views on the dastardly nature of people who fail to give information that stops children being abused. It was a curious interview to run in the hour before Dame Janet’s report was published….
What did Kevin say to Dame Janet? Let us find out.
Dame Janet gives a very fair, and I suspect, utterly accurate, resume of Savile’s character. They range from family recollections of a ‘frugal’ man who could be tight with money but also supportive of family members in financial difficulty – to ‘a self-publicist’ who would ‘big himself up for publicity’. Male BBC employees tended towards the opinion that he was a ‘clown’, ‘an amusing fellow’ and had few ‘social graces’ – many women described him a ‘sleazy’, ‘creepy’ and disliked his ostentatious and socially awkward habit of kissing their arm from top to bottom – though Dame Janet cautions:
4.38 witnesses were being asked to remember him shortly after his exposure as a prolific sex offender. That is almost bound to have influenced their recollections and perceptions of him. Very few people were willing to admit that they had liked him. Some were prepared to speak warmly of his abilities as a presenter; some accepted that he had charisma. A few were prepared to say that they had enjoyed his company and found him amusing. There were, of course, quite a few who admired him for his charitable work.
One man, Kevin Howlett, who had met Savile twice, did describe him in derogatory terms as ‘eccentric’, ‘unusual’ and ‘creepy’. I look forward to hearing Mr Howlett’s description of Kenny Everett, or perhaps Dame Edna Everage…
Other disc jockeys appear more united in their dislike of Savile, regurgitating old stories of him being a ‘gangland enforcer’ and a man who had no ‘social contact’ with his colleagues. Professional jealousy or just resentment towards a man who didn’t stand his round in the general heavy champagne swilling lifestyle of 70s BBC?
Andy Kershaw in particular, describes an occasion when as a ‘new disc jockey’ – or put another way, when he could have been ‘anyone’ walking in off the street, he put out his hand to Savile and said ‘Hi, I’m Andy’ – 40 years later he remembers the ‘put-down’ when Savile failed to acknowledge him warmly. I daresay Andy is still smarting from the time when his sister ate the last of his Walnut Whip. Such delicate egos.
Despite his celebrity, many witnesses described Savile as a loner who avoided social contact save in situations over which he had complete control. He was not interested in getting to know the members of a production team. He rarely went to BBC parties and seldom went to the BBC Club.
One of the few people to whom Savile confided details of his past, had this to say:
Savile told Mr Langley that he had created himself; he had realised early on that he had nothing going for him, that he was not well educated and that he needed to create an “outrageous personality”. One can see that this might explain Savile’s image with his unconventional style of dress, strange hair colourings, use of ‘bling’ jewellery and stylised conversation which was frequently punctuated by sayings like “now then, now then, how’s about that then?”
I was particularly amused by the complaints that Savile spent little time in Television Centre, nor on the sets of various programmes; would request a supply of expensive cigars for his ‘six hours of presence’ and then leave the building at the earliest opportunity clutching his cigars. This was felt to be distasteful – not the cigars, but the fact that he gave the impression that he ‘really had fixed it for children’ and was a ‘bit of a con’, making them feel uncomfortable about ‘things in television that are not as they seem’. Crikey, I hope those particular innocents never have to work on Newsnight….
One statement in the report which is likely to be widely circulated is:
It may be no surprise that Savile himself thought that the age of consent was too high. Lesley Taylor, who worked on Speakeasy for a time, told me that, over dinner one evening in the BBC cafeteria, Savile expressed the view that the age should be lowered to about 12 to 14.
As ever, context is important – Dame Janet was discussing at 3.7, the fact that with the age of majority having just been lowered to 18 from 21 in the 1970s, there was wide ranging public debate as to whether the age of consent should be lowered too, on the grounds that ‘so many young people under the age of 16 were having sex; they were not only willing to do it but were not going to be stopped.’
First one to spot the media comment that ‘Savile wanted the age of consent lowered to 12’ – without further qualification – gets the prize…..
Dame Janet knocks on the head any notion that no one was aware of child sexual abuse before 2011, or that victims were ignored. She points out that:
“Tardieu in Paris in the 1860s wrote at length on rape, incest and anal interference of young children. Parliament passed the Incest Act in 1908 as a result of concern expressed about children during the 19th century and crimes of incest and sexual assaults upon children within the family have been a regular feature of the criminal lists at the Assizes and continue to be so at the Crown Courts throughout the Country”.
Whilst acknowledging that in the 70s the new phenomena of ‘hormone hysteria’ was leading many under age girls to seek out sex with celebrities, and that although senior BBC managers (from an older mindset) would have disapproved and put a stop to this, she didn’t find that junior members of staff who had grown up in this new ‘age’ would have thought it appropriate to report such activity. Interesting.
Esther Rantzen spoke warmly of the support given by the BBC to her work on Childwatch. She said:
“We took [child abuse] out from under the carpet”. She said that the BBC, through Will Wyatt, the Head of Department, and others gave steadfast support to the show. Within some parts of the BBC, however, there was some caution because of a concern (also expressed in the press) that, in publicising its very unpleasant message, the programme might cause children to invent stories.
Dame Esther told the review that she had gone through the ChildLine files and was satisfied that they had never received a call relating to abuse by a pop star or disc jockey. Blimey – not just ‘never received a call about Savile’ but not about any celebrity! (at 3.84 if you want to double check!)
Aha! I have finally found Kevin Cook:
Savile abused Kevin Cook in his dressing room after attending a recording of Jim’ll Fix It when he was nine.
That’s it, he’s just listed in the chronology, with no mention of his finding the confidence to tell Dame Janet the horrific tale he told on Victoria Derbyshire this morning of a vicious rape by a second man on BBC premises. Perhaps she should have filmed him, maybe the camera gives him confidence.
Sadly, Dame Janet doesn’t appear to have been able to answer the conundrum of how old Karin Ward was when it was claimed that Savile was a paedophile who had assaulted her on BBC premises….
Savile indecently assaulted Karin Ward in a dressing room/hospitality room at the BBC Theatre when she was 15 or 16.
Dame Janet has been more than fair and even handed in this report – it is more than just a review of the BBC; it will become an important social history document, forensically detailing the changing cultural habits of society.
She is to be congratulated.
She is aware herself of the danger of bias – that in only calling for witnesses who had ‘witnessed or experienced abuse’ she was carrying a loaded gun:
I was acutely conscious that our method of finding witnesses might well result in bias. There was a possibility of bias towards those who had a serious grievance against Savile or the BBC and against those who had something they wished to hide.
She was also aware of the inherently unfair nature of an inquiry into the activities of someone who could not defend themselves:
I have read in the media expressions of concern that it is quite unfair that Savile should be accused of sexual crimes and immoral behaviour at a time when he is no longer able to answer the allegations. Concern has been expressed that anyone who comes forward and makes an allegation of abuse against Savile is believed without there being any real investigation into the truth of the matter. There are some who believe that the allegations are driven by a wish to receive compensation. I acknowledge the views of those who feel that Savile is being condemned without proper investigation, especially when these views are expressed by those who knew Savile and who honestly believe that the allegations are untrue.
She was also suitably aware of the temptation for ‘bandwagon jumpers’ to approach her with tales of abuse for their own reasons:
There are a few cases where I have not accepted the evidence of a complainant or have felt unable to reach any conclusion. I have not included those cases in this Report. I am not saying that I have rejected their evidence because I have concluded they are dishonestly seeking compensation; just that their evidence was, for a variety of reasons, unsatisfactory.
Finally, she makes plain her views on the police (non) investigations and the ensuing media feeding frenzy:
The police have simply recorded the nature and circumstances of the various allegations and, as I understand it, have designated them as crimes for the purposes of their records. I do not for one moment criticise the police for collecting this information.
However, I do think that it is unfortunate that the impression has been given that every allegation was in fact true.
Footnote: A special mention for the Guardian, still trying this morning to defend Louis Theroux against claims that he must be a lousy documentary maker who failed to uncover Savile’s ‘crimes’…..
Louis Theroux became aware of a credible allegation that in the late 1960s or early 1970s Savile had sex with a 15-year-old. Theroux spoke to David Mortimer, an executive producer at the BBC.
I ran that one by Mr G, a fortuitously handy example of ‘ordinary member of the public’.
‘What d’you make of that’ I said.
‘Well, if he’d reported that to a senior producer and nothing was done, that’s disgusting’ said Mr G.
Fair comment, and most people would read ‘spoke to’ as ‘reported’ – most people that is, who didn’t realise that David Mortimer has worked with Louis as his producer for the past 30 years or so.
It would be a miracle if you didn’t speak to the producer you had worked with for 30 years…or pass on gossip over a glass of wine.
Still Louis and his housetrained camera has been sculling round anyone with a grudge against Savile for months now, desperately trying to pull together another documentary on ‘his friend’ Savile and salvage his reputation….
Louis’ reputation that is, not Savile’s…