26 Jun 2014

How Jimmy Savile abused hospital patients aged five to 75

Health and Social Care Correspondent

Jimmy Savile subjected hospital patients to “truly awful” sexual abuse for more than four decades, a series of chilling reports reveals.

Comedian, DJ, television star, charity fundraiser and a prolific, predatory, indiscriminate sexual abuser.

It seems impossible to think that Jimmy Savile‘s reputation could sink still further. Yet now, reading the inquiry findings into the assaults at 28 hospitals between 1962 to as recently as 2009, it has become clear that his depravity was beyond anything any of us could have imagined.

He was a man who used his celebrity to manipulate, coerce and ultimately abuse. And it was not just children. It was men, women, boys and girls, aged from five to 75. It was patients and it was staff.

And it was not always in a room with the door shut. The 256-page report on the abuse at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust said: “The abusive encounters took place in wards, corridors, offices and other hospital locations, in a nearby cafe, in Savile’s mother’s house and in his camper van.”

'Truly awful' - statement from NHS England on the Savile investigations

Forty-three of the 60 victims who gave evidence to the Leeds inquiry team were assaulted in public areas within and outside the hospital.

As one of the team of counsellors brought in to help the victims said, this was a man “hiding in plain sight”.

‘Gave him the keys’

There is still the report to come from Stoke Mandeville. That has been delayed as have two others. In all 31 hospitals have now found that this man that they trusted so much that in some cases they literally gave him the keys to the doors, betrayed them, their patients and their staff.

In Leeds, the abuse, the inquiry says, ‘ranged from lewd remarks and inappropriate touching to sexual assault and in three cases, rape’.

Here Savile volunteered as a porter, which gave him unlimited access. He was allocated staff to manage his fan mail and he was given successive offices.

The abusive encounters took place in wards, corridors, offices and other hospital locations, in a nearby cafe, in Savile’s mother’s house and in his camper van. Jimmy Savile report

One of the victims recalls that he pushed her trolley and after the doors closed he untied her hospital gown and touched her breasts.

She said: “I felt dirty,” but she added that she did not tell anyone because she did not think she would be believed.

That, too, is a common theme running through these hundreds of pages. This was after all The Jimmy Savile. The kind, caring man who raised so much for charity.

And that hampered staff, too, from reporting anything. One victim recalls him lifting her nightdress, kissing her stomach and whispering “I love you”. Her grandmother shouted at him to get off her. She recalled her mother reporting it to the ward sister but she doesn’t think anything was done about it.

Helen Harding, a volunteer for Victim Support, who has been helping the victims, said a number of members of staff have sought help because of the guilt they feel at not having done anything.

Glass eyeballs

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Ms Harding also makes the point that the victims are not only those that were abused. It is also the parents who feel appalled and guilty that they did not know, that their children did not say anything, and the staff.

But the depravity goes way beyond this. The Leeds report has two witnesses describing jewellery Savile was wearing made – they said he had told them – from the glass eyeballs gathered from the mortuary.

There were suggestions that he interfered with the bodies in the mortuary. One witness said that Savile had claimed to have “performed sex acts on the bodies”. The inquiry said they have no way of proving this but expert advice said it may have been possible.

Broadmoor hospital

Above: in 2012 Channel 4 News went inside Broadmoor hospital (Channel 4 News/Firecrest Films)

It also suggested in the report that he did not act alone, that there may have been at least three staff, who aided and abetted some of the abuse.

At Broadmoor hospital, they say six patients, two staff, two children and one account of indecent exposure.

Savile’s association with Broadmoor started in 1968 when the medical superintendent hoped his fame and popularity would improve public perception of the hospital.

Dr Bill Kirkup, the lead investigator for the Broadmoor part of the inquiry, said: “today, that hope seems desperately ironic.”

In 1988, Savile was appointed lead investigator to a task force. The report says he was an adept manipulator. He told staff he could have them fired. “A powerful disincentive to anyone considering complaints about his behaviour.”

Nobody, of course, dares say that this could never happen again. Yet through the reports runs the suggestion that this was different times, that this was made unusual by the extent of his power and fame.

Una O’Brien, the permanent secretary at the Department of Health, said: “Today’s reports detail the depraved activities of Jimmy Savile and make for shocking reading.

“On behalf of the previous Department of Health and Social Security, and Department of Health, we are deeply sorry that inadequate processes in 1988 enabled Jimmy Savile to occupy a position of authority that he used to abuse his victims at Broadmoor Hospital.”

That is an understatement.

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