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The recent release of the documentary The Crimes of Jimmy Savile (Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story) brought to the attention of the British media and public the story of the huge sexual abuse scandal committed by Jimmy Savile, a very popular and whimsical DJ and BBC TV presenter who died in 2011 at the age of 84. The documentary, available on Netflix, contains new elements and testimonies on how Savile took advantage of his fame and his prominent position in society to sexually abuse dozens of girls and girls over the span of several decades.
In these weeks i newspapers British have returned to deal with this affair, which only emerged after Savile’s death and considered one of the biggest scandals the BBC has ever had to deal with. Almost everyone reflects on how he managed to deceive not only his victims, but also an entire nation without any consequences, and wonder how it was possible to keep a case of this magnitude hidden for so long.
Jimmy Savile was one of the BBC’s best-known faces for over forty years.
Born in 1926 just outside Leeds into a very religious family, he was the youngest of seven siblings. He dropped out of school at 14 to go to work in the mines, and before starting to devote himself to radio in the late 1950s – with some success – he also tried to be a professional wrestler and cyclist.
His career took off in 1964, when he became the first presenter of the famous music charts program Top of The Popsbeloved by young British people. With her quirky personality and flashy appearance, accompanied by tousled platinum blonde hair, cigars and sunglasses, she began to see herself all over the place over the following years and decades: from BBC Radio 1 to the London Marathon, from the concert stage. of the Beatles and Rolling Stones at events with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
Savile was also considered a great philanthropist and it is estimated that over the years he had donated almost 40 million pounds to charity, receiving important awards for this, such as the title of baronet of the United Kingdom. Thanks to success in radio and television and charitable activities, he also managed to become an esteemed person at high levels: as the documentary, directed by director Rowan Deacon explains, he had also had various contacts with the British royal family, and had become a sort of informal adviser to Prince Charles.
From 1975 also Savile was the conductor of Jim’ll Fix Ita program seen regularly by 20 million people in which it tried to fulfill all the wishes of the audience, mostly girls and boys.
According to various newspapers, such as the Guardianthis program was a part of the “floor” with which Savile was able to win the trust of the younger audience, as well as to approach girls and girls to then abuse them. Even his intense charitable activity allowed him to have access to several hospitals and orphanages, where he had lured and molested dozens of other people.
The documentary released in April on Netflix contains the testimony of one of the women who had been sexually abused by Savile as a girl, interviews with people who had worked with him and the stories of the various journalists who had investigated the rumors concerning the abuse, who they had begun to emerge especially in the second half of his career. Despite the various attentions of the journalists and the many questions about his sexual habits addressed to him even on televisionhowever, overwhelming evidence was never found to confirm the many suspicions, and he was never openly reported.
In the mid-nineties, for example, the Sunday Mirror he had collected the testimonies of three women who had said they had been abused by Savile: all however refused to testify against him because they were too intimidated by his fame and in the end withdrew the charges. Meanwhile, Savile had hired George Carman, one of the most respected lawyers of his time, to try to dissuade anyone who tried to investigate him.
Things changed after his death, when gradually about 200 witnesses came forward to report the sexual harassment that Savile had committed repeatedly and systematically.
The police opened more than 400 investigations: according to an investigation conducted in 2016, in over fifty years Savile molested and sexually abused at least one child and dozens of girls and women between the ages of five and seventy-five. At least 63 of these people were admitted to the English hospital in Stoke Mandeville, one of those in which he was treated as a benefactor: the only complaint filed by one of the people who had been abused in the hospital was ignored.
– Read also: The other scandals surrounding the Savile case
As the Telegraph, in Savile’s story “great wickedness and ostentatious philanthropy go hand in hand.” According to Guardianthe fact that he has been able to abuse dozens of girls and girls for decades without any repercussions also calls for a reflection both on the trust that the BBC had placed in Savile, and on the trust placed in the BBC by the public.
In October 2012, a year after his death, the director of Newsnight – the most famous BBC journalistic in-depth program – had in fact decided not to broadcast an investigation into the sexual abuse committed by Savile in an attempt not to give visibility to the accusations and investigations. A few days earlier, the British private broadcaster ITV1 had broadcast a documentary that told the stories of five women whom Savile had raped since the 1970s in his Rolls Royce and in the caravan he used as a dressing room at the BBC, and after the broadcast, many women all over the world. adolescent era had come forward to report similar abuses.
Peter Rippon, the director of Newsnight, defended himself by arguing that there was not strong enough evidence to support the allegations. Realizing the size of the story, he then resigned.
One of the main accusations leveled at the BBC is that of having ignored various warning signs that Savile – a person who also stood out for his always ready answer and for his jokes considered very often on the verge of slimy – would have allowed to emerge in the course of the years during various programs.
A video 1976 appears to show Savile groping a girl during an episode of Top of the Popswhile in ainterview in 1999 he claimed to be “feared in all girls’ schools in the country”. In another 1995 interview, pursued by reporter Andrew Neil with a series of questions about his preference for rather young girls, he instead began to eat a bananapresumably to shift the audience’s attention to her gesture and distract her from the topic of the interview.
Throughout his career, writes the GuardianSavile managed to manipulate and convince not only girls and girls, but the whole of society, that she was a completely different person from who she really was: “and she did it with ever greater intensity, over an incredibly long period of time” , without most people understanding how “deeply abhorrent” this was.
– Read also: The case of the most famous interview with Diana, obtained with “dishonest” methods