Op-Ed: Jimmy Savile and the Keystone Kops

Posted Oct 14, 2012 by Steve Hayes
As the Savile scandal spreads, and more and more of this sorry, sordid saga is exposed to the light of day, the role of the police is increasingly brought into question. Just how many opportunities did the police fail to take?
Jimmy Savile pretending to be St. Nicholas.
Jimmy Savile pretending to be St. Nicholas.
In the late 1950s, Jimmy Savile was the manager of the Locarno Ballroom in Leeds. Dennis Lemmon was one of the bouncers at the night club. Lemmon told the Sunday Telegraph that as early as 1958 Savile was suspected of child sexual assaults. Lemmon said:
He came in and just ignored us all, walked straight past us. I remember saying: 'what’s up with him?’ and someone in the club replied: 'He’s up in court tomorrow – interfering with young girls. He’s worried’.
Three days later Savile was back to his usual self. Lemmon explained the change:
He was really worried but everything was dropped. I was told he had paid them [the police] off. And apparently that wasn’t the first time either but I don’t know about that. He had a lot of friends though.
Lemmon told the Sunday Telegraph that everyone at the club knew about Savile's preference for young girls. When asked why no one did anything about it, he said:
I suppose because it was Jimmy.
As far as we currently know, this was the first missed opportunity. There were, however, more to follow.
In the early 1960s, Savile records in his autobiography, as reviewed by Digital Journal, another encounter with the police. Savile said he was approached by a police officer about a runaway girl. Savile's autobiography records that he told the officer:
Ah,’ says I all serious, ‘if she comes in I’ll bring her back tomorrow but I’ll keep her all night first as my reward’.
According Savile, the girl duly arrived at the club and he spent the night with her before handing her over to the police at half past eleven the next morning. Savile said:
The officeress was dissuaded from bringing charges against me by her colleagues for it was well known that were I to go, I would probably take half the station with me.
The next opportunity the police had occurred in the late 1960s. By now Jimmy Savile was famous. He had been presenting Top of the Pops for the BBC since its first episode in 1964. Stanley Dorfman, who was the popular music show's producer, told the Sunday Telegraph that the police instituted an investigation of the show over allegations of underage sex. Dorfman said:
The only police inquiry I remember was when they came and interviewed us all because there were girls in the dressing rooms...
The investigation lasted a few weeks, but nothing came of it. Another missed opportunity.
In 1971 the police were again interested in Top of the Pops. The instigating cause on this occasion was the suicide of Clair McAlpine, a fifteen year old dancer on the show. The investigation was headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Hooker, who was leading an inquiry into allegations of bribery and sex parties involving disc jockeys and others.
Clair's dead body had been found by her mother. Clair's diary was lying beside her. It gave the reason for a suicide; she could no longer stand the abuse. And it named the perpetrators, including Jimmy Savile. However, Savile was apparently only interviewed as a possible witness.
On the eve of Clair's inquest, Savile was questioned by reporters. He said:
I studied a photograph of Samantha very closely. I cannot recollect ever seeing the girl in my life.
However, Top of the Pops photographs show Savile next to the dancer only weeks before her death. Another missed opportunity.
There was also in 1971 a News of the World investigation into pornography at Top of the Pops. This was yet another missed opportunity.
In the late 1970s the police were again informed of concerns about Savile's behaviour. A nurse at Stoke Mandeville Hospital informed the police that children in the hospital were being advised by nurses to pretend to be asleep when Savile was around, as reported in Digital Journal. The nurse expressed her concerns to John Lindsay, a CID detective. Lindsay reported the matter to a Detective Chief Inspector, now deceased, who took the view that nothing could be done against someone of Savile's status without solid proof. And so another opportunity was missed.
After Jonathan King's 2001 conviction for sexually abusing boys, the police again looked at Savile. According to the Sunday Telegraph, the police dropped the matter due to lack of firm evidence.
In 2007 Savile was interviewed by police under caution in respect of allegations of child sexual assaults at Duncroft School in the 1970s. The police presented the evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, which decided not to bring a prosecution. Yet another missed opportunity.
The Haut de la Garenne children's home was regularly visited by Savile. The 2008 child abuse investigation was provided with allegations against Savile, as reported in the Guardian. Once more the police decided not to take any action.
In 2008 police were also informed of an allegation of sexual assault in Worthing. Once more the police decided proceedings could not be brought.
These are the police investigations into allegations against Jimmy Savile that are in the public domain. It is possible that they constitute merely the tip of an iceberg. For example, West Yorkshire police had conducted inquiries into allegations that Savile sexually assaulted young girls on a canal boat in the 1970s. There was also a reported case of sexual assault at a Leeds children's home, which should have been passed on to the police. However large the iceberg may eventually turn out to be, one thing is clear: the police appear to have been, at best, no more competent than the Keystone Kops.