2 Oct 2012

Michael Grade: There were question marks over Savile

As the Met opens an inquiry following fresh allegations against the late Sir Jimmy Savile, former BBC1 controller Michael Grade admits there were rumours about the DJ while he was at the corporation.

Mr Grade told Krishnan Guru-Murthy (see interview below) he had “fleetingly” heard rumours, saying: “There were question marks, certainly.”

Asked why he had not acted, he said: “People would cast aspersions in a general conversation – no-one said ‘I know someone who has been attacked by an artist’. You’d immediately take action… the particular case that’s topical at the moment, I think there have been quite a few attempts to get behind the allegations – so you can’t say anyone ignored it.”

“I never heard anything that gave me cause to think we should investigate or do anything about it. But the entertainment industry is awash on a sea of rumours.

“I wouldn’t like anyone to get the idea that in the seventies the people in authority in broadcasting were in any way permissive, or turned a blind eye.”

The former BBC executive said he was “absolutely certain” that rumours of a BBC cover-up over Jimmy Savile were “ludicrous”. Comparing the TV industry then with today, he said: “We didn’t quite have the fear of exposure that we have today – the press weren’t quite so aggressive… you could keep things quiet more easily in those days…

“It is incredibly difficult to keep anything secret today. If you’ve got a dark and dirty secret, I think your chances of being exposed today are much, much, much greater than they were in the seventies.”

Jersey inquiry

The three-year inquiry into child abuse at the Haut de la Garenne home heard allegations that Savile was involved in an indecent assault, also in the 1970s.

Jersey police did not pursue the allegations, due to lack of evidence.

Former editor of the News of the World Phil Hall told Channel 4 News the paper had also heard allegations about Savile’s conduct: “There were people coming in to us at the time with stories about Jimmy Savile but there was nothing we could do to substantiate them.”

Meanwhile, Surrey police have confirmed that a woman came to them on Monday with an historic allegation of rape relating to the late TV presenter.

The force said it has passed the details to the Metropolitan police, as the alleged incident is claimed to have taken place in London.

The BBC says it has conducted a trawl of its files and found no evidence of any complaints or allegations of misconduct against the flamboyant star.

In a statement it said: “A number of serious and disturbing allegations have been made over the past few days about the sexual abuse of teenage girls by Jimmy Savile.

“Some of these allegations relate to activity on BBC premises in the 1960s and 70s. We are horrified by allegations that anything of this sort could have happened at the BBC – or have been carried out by anyone working for the BBC.

“They are allegations of a serious criminal nature which the police have the proper powers to investigate.

“So we have today asked the BBC Investigations Unit to make direct contact with all the police forces in receipt of allegations and offer to help them investigate these matters and provide full support to any lines of inquiry they wish to pursue.”

Savile’s family have said they are “sad and disgusted” at the allegations which have emerged a year after his death.

Indecent assault

Most of the allegations against Savile are due to be aired in an ITV documentary on Wednesday, entitled Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile.

The programme alleges that Savile abused girls in his Rolls-Royce, in a mobile home, and at BBC’s television headquarters.

It includes interviews with a woman who says Savile sexually assaulted her while she was a student at the Duncroft special needs school near London, and with a former BBC staff member who says she saw the entertainer indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

Children’s campaigner and a former BBC colleague of Savile, Esther Rantzen, told Channel 4 News she believed the rumours which circulated about him. “I heard the rumours almost immediately. It was always said that he behaved inappropriately with children, but rumours are not evidence.

She added: “He was so well connected that I think that was another reason that people didn’t dare pass on what they knew.”