Police, prosecutors and hospitals: How Jimmy Savile's victims were let down by every authority

Lucy Manning

Former UK Editor

Jimmy Savile pictured in 1998, the year police received a letter alleging that Savile was a "deeply committed paedophile". Credit: Empics

"He is a deeply committed paedophile," said the anonymous letter sent to the Metropolitan Police in 1998 about Jimmy Savile.

It continued: "I have done my duty, my conscience is clear, you have the power, time, and resources at Scotland Yard to wheedle him out, and expose him for what he really is.

"It is not I who suffer if you do nothing, but the children.”

Prophetic words. The letter made allegations about Savile being the victim of blackmail because of his behaviour with rent boys.

Yet while the Met Police forwarded it on to West Yorkshire Police, neither force followed it up and Scotland Yard classed it as a sensitive document so when other forces searched the police files on Savile, it didn't appear.

The HMIC report into the response from the police to Savile makes depressing reading. It will make some of his victims extremely angry. There were not many opportunities for the police to catch Savile, but there were some and they were all missed.

From Surrey to Sussex to West Yorkshire to the Metropolitan Police, complaints and intelligence about Savile weren't properly investigated and intelligence wasn't shared.

At Scotland Yard, a senior officer showed me a 1964 ledger that shows Savile's name connected with arrests that were made of men taking advantage of girls from the Duncroft School.

His name is there, written down by a police officer, but it would take 50 years for the truth to come out.

In 2003, Scotland Yard, so widely praised for its handling of Operation Yewtree last year into Savile, received an allegation about him while he was alive.

Again this information was marked as restricted. So when Surrey came to investigate him in 2007 they didn't know about the previous allegations and complaints so couldn't build a stronger case.

Surrey doesn't escape, though: it is criticised for 11 failures including allowing Savile to determine where and when his police interview in 2009 should be. It was at Stoke Mandeville; they didn't tell the hospital.

Sussex Police is also criticised for when it interviewed a Savile victim in 2008, with the officer not understanding the law and trying to suggest a crime hadn't taken place.

But perhaps West Yorkshire Police have the most questions to answer. Savile lived in Leeds yet the force said it had no intelligence reports on him. But the Met said it had sent the 1998 anonymous letter to them.

The report says while some forces had shortcomings in their investigations into Savile, the greater concern lies in "the omissions of others."

Savile told Surrey Police that in Leeds he'd had previous allegations but had "a collection of senior police persons..who come to see me socially" and he gave them his "weirdo letters and they take them back to the station. They don't keep them long and they pass them round the office." The Independent Police Complaints Commission is now investigating.

The report is damning. It is hard not to conclude he was protected by his celebrity.

Perhaps the two most worrying aspects:

  • Despite hundreds of victims who have come forward now, there were only five allegations to the police and two pieces of intelligence found about Savile from his lifetime.

  • A mixture of possible records destroyed and a victims who felt unable to go to the police.

And the failings over intelligence sharing are still a concern. The report says there is a "distinct possibility" that these failures to spot the pattern of a paedophile and share information could happen again.

Some victims did try to report Savile. In 1963 a man told Cheshire police Savile raped him. He was told to "forget about it " and "move on".

On an unknown date a man told the Metropolitan Police his girlfriend had been assaulted by Savile at Top of the Pops. He was told he "could be arrested for making such allegations."

From the BBC to the hospitals to the prosecutors and now, it's clear, the police, the victims of Savile were let down by every authority.

And he, while alive, despite his name crossing police files fifty years ago, got away with it.