Jimmy Savile child abuse investigation shows the power of celebrity enabled stars to be predators

London: The power of celebrity in modern culture means that predatory child abusers may still lurk in the BBC – or similar organisations – undetected, says the woman charged with investigating the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Dame Janet Smith released on Thursday the results of her long-awaited investigation into the way the BBC handled historical claims of sexual complaints against its presenters, including Jimmy Savile.

She said it made "very sorry reading for the BBC" – though she concluded there was no evidence that senior staff or the BBC 'as a corporate body' were aware of Savile's conduct at the time.

Smith's report identified eight rapes by Jimmy Savile on BBC premises, one attempted rape, and scores of other sexual assaults, from 1959 to 2006, though mostly in the 1970s, in connection with Savile's work on Top of the Pops.

Young people attending Top of the Pops in the '60s, '70s and '80s were "at risk of moral danger", Smith said.

Savile abused boys, girls and women – usually young women - on set and in his dressing room, the report found.

"Usually, Savile either met the victim at the BBC or else he groomed the victim by offering the opportunity to attend the BBC before taking the victim elsewhere, often to his home or campervan," the report said.

"In addition to these incidents which occurred on his own premises, Savile would gratify himself sexually on BBC premises whenever the opportunity arose and I heard of incidents which took place in virtually every one of the BBC's premises at which he worked."

At least eight complaints about Savile's sexual conduct had been made, but did not lead to proper investigation.

One junior employee at Television Centre, who complained after Savile put his hand up her skirt, was told by her supervisor "keep your mouth shut, he is a VIP".

On another occasion, a woman was groped by Savile on a Top of the Pops podium and complained to a BBC employee, but was told it was "just Jimmy Savile mucking about" and she should simply move away.

Such complaints were not referred to senior managers, because of "a culture within the BBC which made it difficult to complain or to say anything to management which might 'rock the boat'."

The network's 'talent' were protected because of "a deference or even adulation", and because there was no established route for complaints.

In 1973 the controller of Radio 1 and 2 Douglas Muggeridge, heard "disturbing rumours" about Savile and made inquiries, but "the main concern which prompted his enquiries was the risk of damage to the BBC's reputation, rather than the welfare of any girls who might be sexually involved with Savile".

He decided the rumours were untrue.

Smith identified "wake-up calls" involving people other than Savile, which were missed by the BBC.

In 1969, the Top of the Pops stills photographer Harry Goodwin was accused of regularly taking "a variety of girls" to a dressing room and taking pornographic photographs. A whistleblower sent a letter to the BBC saying Goodwin paid BBC staff to make sure he was not disturbed during the sessions.

But despite the complaints, the head of light entertainment insisted that Goodwin stay in his job – and someone tipped off Goodwin to an internal investigation, which failed to catch him red-handed.

Then, in 1971, Mrs Vera McAlpine phoned the BBC to complain that her 15-year-old daughter had been 'seduced' by a celebrity at his flat after a Top of the Pops recording. Shortly afterwards, Claire McAlpine committed suicide.

The celebrity – still working at the BBC at the time of Smith's investigation - was identified in the report as "A7".  However, the BBC on Thursday identified him as veteran DJ Tony Blackburn.

The report did not make any conclusion about the scandal, except that the BBC's investigation at the time "was not conducted in a satisfactory way".

On Thursday, Blackburn said he had been sacked by the BBC after a disagreement over his evidence to the inquiry.

He said in a statement: "They are destroying my career and reputation because my version of events does not tally with theirs."

"Sadly what is happening to me now seems entirely in keeping with the past BBC culture of whitewash and cover up."

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said Blackburn had "fallen short of the standards of evidence" for the inquiry.

Hall said he was making no judgement about what had happened in the past, or in relation to the original claim against Blackburn.

At least one reference to convicted child abuser Rolf Harris – a regular on the BBC for decades - was removed from the final version of the report, which was released less than two weeks after police revealed seven new indecent assault charges against the Australian entertainer.

His name does now not appear in the report.

But an earlier version, leaked to the Exaro news website in January, Smith wrote: "It must be recognised that child sex abusers can be highly intelligent, articulate and charismatic but manipulative people. Stuart Hall is an example. So it seems is Rolf Harris. Savile was intelligent, charismatic and extremely manipulative if not always very articulate.

"Coupled with celebrity, the power of which shows no sign of diminishing in our society, those features make a powerful combination, which makes detection difficult. Until a complaint is made such people are likely to enjoy the confidence and approval of all those around them."

The same paragraph, with the Harris reference removed, appeared in the final report. Smith added: "I do not think there is any organisation that can be completely confident that it does not harbour a child abuser… any organisation could be duped by such an individual."

Society must "do everything we can to ensure that young victims have the confidence to complain," she said.

"We are hearing the worst," BBC Director-General Tony Hall said on Thursday. "What happened was profoundly wrong. It should never have happened, it should certainly have been stopped.

"It was a dark chapter in the history of the organisation … I am deeply sorry for the hurt caused to each and every (victim).

"We made (Savile) a VIP… fame is power, a very strong form of power and like any form of power it must be held to account, it must be scrutinised, and it wasn't."

This story Jimmy Savile child abuse investigation shows the power of celebrity enabled stars to be predators first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.