Content Warning: This post deals with the sexual assault and rape of minors. For support, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
When Sir Jimmy Savile died in 2011, aged 84, glowing tributes filled the British media. The Guardian described the former TV host as a “professional good Samaritan”, declaring, “It is as a raiser of cash for charity that he will be remembered.” Prince Charles released a statement saying he was “saddened” to hear of Savile’s death. Savile was buried in a gold coffin, with the inscription on his headstone reading, “It was good while it lasted.”
And then his victims started to speak up. By the end of the following year, 450 people had come forward to report that Savile had assaulted them. Most of the victims had been under the age of 18 at the time, with the youngest aged just eight.
It is now accepted that Savile was one of Britain’s worst-ever sex offenders. He preyed on the vulnerable – the young, the sick, the emotionally disturbed, even the dead – over six decades.
Yet his public reputation remained virtually untarnished until after his death. He was never charged with any sexual assaults. So how did he get away with it?
Savile, who grew up as the youngest of seven children in a poor family in Leeds, started out working in the coal mines in WWII. He suffered a serious spinal injury in a mining accident, then once he recovered, launched a new career as a dance-hall DJ. That led to a job in radio and then TV, with the massively popular music show Top Of The Pops. His other long-running TV hit was Jim’ll Fix It, where he made people’s wishes come true. When he wasn’t filming his shows, he spent a lot of time visiting hospitals or doing charity work.