19 Oct 2012

Police launch Savile abuse probe after new leads found

The inquiry into alleged child abuse by Jimmy Savile is now a formal criminal investigation, with more than 200 potential victims, Scotland Yard reveals.

Operation Yewtree has moved from an assessment to a criminal investigation after detectives established there are lines of inquiry involving “living people that require formal investigation”.

Scotland Yard said two weeks of gathering information has involved assessing more than 400 lines of inquiry and has identified more than 200 potential victims.

The force said: “As we have said from the outset, our work was never going to take us into a police investigation into Jimmy Savile.

“What we have established in the last two weeks is that there are lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.”

The news comes as a leaked BBC internal email casts doubt on why a Newsnight investigation into alleged sexual abuse by the late TV star Jimmy Savile, which was later exposed in an ITV documentary, was pulled.

Planned tribute

The email, which was published in the Times, has increased suspicions that the report was dropped last December because the BBC feared it would clash with planned Christmas tributes to one of its biggest stars, the newspaper has said.

The programme’s editor Peter Rippon had previously claimed that the story his journalists had been pursuing had been “weakened from a Newsnight perspective” because they had been unable to establish any “institutional failure” by the police or the Crown Prosecution Service when investigating the allegations against Savile.

The email, sent from a press officer to Peter Rippon and other staff, reveals that the Newsnight investigation was so well advanced by then that the press office was preparing “lines to take” to respond to questions after its planned broadcast.

Dated 7 December, it reveals that Newsnight journalists had been “focusing on allegations of abuse” and not, as subsequently claimed by the BBC, on an alleged failure by police to investigate Savile properly, it added.

And it shows that the BBC was aware of the risk that the report would raise questions about why it had failed to expose Savile as a paedophile while he was alive, the newspaper said.

The press officer wrote that “we may well need to do a bit of managing around this” and that “we should bear in mind how BBC complaints team respond”.

Channel 4 News’s Paraic O’Brien has seen parts of an email correspondence between the editor of Newsnight and the team working on the Savile investigation, which reveal how close the report was to broadcast.

In one for example, Mr Rippon said: “let’s get ready for TX.” (or transmission)

In another he said: “Need to get BBC press office Q and A ready.”

Then within the space of a week there’s a change of tune. A line in an email appears to apply the brakes: “let’s not put cart before the horse… it’s not ready for TX yet.”

However the emails do not suggest exactly why the investigation was dropped.


Responding to the leaked email, a BBC spokeswoman said: “This ridiculous story in no way casts doubt on what the BBC has previously said on this.

“It is simply an exchange between a junior press officer and the Newsnight producer asking for further information about the Jimmy Savile investigation.”

She added that the email would be passed to an inquiry into whether there were any failings in the way the Newsnight report was handled.

Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, who obtained the email, said: “Newsnight editor Peter Rippon and the BBC have sought to portray that the axed Newsnight report was not an expose of Savile, but was focused on the reasons the police and the CPS dropped their investigation.

“This leaked email and the evidence from internal BBC sources casts doubt on the carefully crafted version of events posted in Peter Rippon’s blog on October 2.

“We need a full explanation of why the focus of the Newsnight expose of Jimmy Savile was abruptly changed at the last minute.”

Ex-Sky News executive Nick Pollard is to lead the BBC’s independent review into the matter while former high court judge Dame Janet Smith will lead a second examination into the “culture and practices of the BBC” during the years Savile worked there.

Panorama investigation

Police believe the disgraced star, who died a year ago, may have been abusing victims for decades.

The BBC and other bodies could be sued by victims if it can be shown they were negligent in allowing Savile to prey on his young victims.

A Department of Health investigation will also be conducted into Savile’s conduct during his charity work at three hospitals – Stoke Mandeville, Broadmoor and Leeds General Infirmary.

BBC Director General George Entwistle and former corporation stalwart Esther Rantzen have become involved as questions are asked about who knew of the rumours about Savile, what and when they heard about them, and whether enough was done to stop him.

It also emerged today that the BBC is aiming to run a special edition of Panorama into its schedules looking into issues surrounding Jimmy Savile’s years of abuse. BBC1 chiefs are preparing to drop the planned edition of the investigative programme on Monday to slot in the Savile programme, with staff working all weekend to deliver it in time.