How Jimmy Savile Allegedly Got Away with Abusing 500 Children and Sex with Dead Bodies
Jimmy Savile was never a handsome man. His face, even in his early days at the BBC, was all sharp edges — the hook of his nose, the jagged-tooth grin, the boggle-eyed look of eccentricity, humor and derangement. At times, he seemed almost make believe. He had platinum hair. A fat cigar perpetually hung out of his mouth. He seemed to communicate exclusively in catchphrases: “now then, now then,” “howzabout that then,” “as it ‘appens.” The kids just loved his gags.
There was always something off about Savile, who hosted the BBC’s “Jim’ll Fix it,” palled around with the royal family, reportedly spent holidays with the Thatchers and was knighted not only by Queen Elizabeth but by Pope John Paul II. But most forgave his idiosyncratic nature. He was, after all, a great man. He raised $5.2 million for a hospital in Leeds, one of the United Kingdom’s largest. He volunteered countless hours as a hospital aide, busing patients to and fro. He helped scores of young doctors get their starts.
Sure, there were rumors. Whispers that he wasn’t everything he seemed. Murmurs he was really a sexual predator and had abused dozens of children. But they never stuck. Not Jimmy Savile, people told themselves — not “fix-it Jim.”
On October 29, 2011, Savile died at his home in Leeds. “Most of all, I remember him as just a totally flamboyant, over-the-top, larger-than-life character,” radio presenter David Hamilton told the Guardian, praising his “tireless” philanthropy. “And as he was on the air, he was just the same off.”
But he wasn’t. And just how wrong that assessment was emerged this month.
Savile, according to a U.K. National Health Service investigation released Thursday, was a prolific pedophile. The health service investigation only confirmed behavior described in several earlier probes since his death. In all, Savile is believed to have abused at least 500 girls and boys, some as young as two, most between 13 and 15, as well as countless adults ranging up to 75 years old. With unfettered access to Leeds General Infirmary, the health service report said, he raped and fondled boys, girls, men and women in offices and corridors. He also allegedly committed sexual acts on dead bodies, and even told several hospital workers that he made jewelry out of one man’s glass eyeball.
As shocking as the findings are, even more shocking is the fact that Savile got away with it for so long. That realization has “shaken our country to the core,” U.K. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday. For decades, while Savile hosted show after show and glad-handed, the abuse went on. Numerous columns have asked: How? How did no one know? Why wasn’t he stopped?
The answer, according to the National Health Service, psychologists, and academics, lies in the pervasive and intimidating power of celebrity. He was so well-known that even when his behavior struck some as strange or lewd, he was allowed to carry on because he was Jimmy Savile and was raising millions. “I don’t know if he were a law unto himself, but because of his celebrity status, he sort of basically had the run of the place,” one hospital worker told investigators.
One woman recalled Savile sexually assaulting her when she was 16. Even decades later, she told investigators, she remembered it vividly. After he was done, he turned an imperial eye to her. “You won’t talk about this,” he told her. “Nobody will believe you. I’m Jimmy Savile. I can get you.” The girl said she told her mother, but she didn’t believe her. The girl never talked about it again.