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"Many folks at the BBC and assorted others have taken cover under the convenient carapace of 'Savile grooming the nation' to avoid an examination of their roles".
I grew up with Jimmy Savile. Anyone who lived in the UK during the 1960s, 70s and 80s couldn't avoid his presence. He was all over the TV, in the papers and always doing stuff. He advised us about road safety, made our wishes come true, all while behaving like a kooky uncle.
We now know why his behaviour was odd. Savile, a devout Catholic, lived with his mother until she died in 1972. He kept her clothes for decades after her death, regularly laundering them.
"Jimmy Savile - A British Horror Story" — the new record-breaking Netflix programme claims the title of a documentary. That's a misnomer. Why? Well, because much is missing. So, while we get a review of Savile's career and crimes, including a traumatic recounting of an attack on a young girl in a church, this two-episode series doesn't even scratch the surface.
I kept asking, "Who knew and when?" and "What did they do?". A true documentary would have dug much deeper to expose those who facilitated, covered up or turned a blind eye to Savile. A little digging would find a wider cast of characters that touches the highest level in British public life.
Instead, we get a series of video anecdotes chosen to craft and sustain the narrative that Savile, the master deceiver, groomed the whole nation. No doubt, that's a version of events that those who worked with him, particularly at the BBC, are keen to sell us as the truth. I don't buy it.
Even today, getting a full assessment of Savile's crimes is impossible - the man died in 2011. Still, we know at least 500 victims have come forward. Many of these — male and female— were between ages 13 and 15, but some were as young as two years old. There is also evidence he engaged in necrophilia. Either way, Savile is Britain's most prolific sex offender.
But, I don't wish to discard this programme as irrelevant because it served a useful purpose; it brought into sharp focus specific uncomfortable facts. For example, we learn that Savile's connection to the royals, especially Prince Charles, ran deep. Journalist Alison Bellamy shares letters exchanged between Savile and the royal family, where Savile had acted as an unofficial advisor. The quantity of correspondence lays bare the level of engagement.
The letters include Savile giving direct advice on how to handle the PR aspects of the Lockerbie disaster. And, in fairness, he provides superb counsel around messaging and keeping tabs on what everyone is saying through a command centre. It's good stuff, from which we may draw two conclusions. First, Savile is a slick operator who understands how to craft a message and ingratiate himself. The second is that the royals are out of touch with the real world. No surprise there.
There is no evidence that the royals knew of Savile's illegal activities. But then again, Prince Charles is a notoriously poor judge of people; he was enthralled by the fake anthropologist Laurens van der Post and has shown poor taste in consorts.
We also learn that Margaret Thatcher championed Savile and his causes because these aligned with her doctrine of self-reliance. Savile didn't seek public funds; instead, he raised money through charity appeals. With her hallmark tireless resolve, Thatcher worked to secure Savile's public standing with a knighthood. Sir Jimmy loved it. And yet, many already knew that he enjoyed 'little girls'. After all, he made no secret of it with such joking comments as," I'm feared in every girl school in Britain' and "My case comes up next Thursday."
There is ample substantiation that many in the entertainment industry knew Savile couldn't be trusted around young girls. Listen to John Lyndon, aka Johnny Rotten and his experience in 1975. Likewise, Bill Oddie had enough honesty to clarify that 'everyone knew'.
Indeed, the nurses at the hospitals he worked in knew what was happening. They took steps to warn patients. I'd like to know why hospital administrators didn't act on the many complaints from nurses and others?
In a breathtaking move, Savile had the keys to the national lunatic bin. Granted unsupervised access, an office and a bedroom, he roamed Broadmoor Hospital at will. This place is the home for many of Britain's worse disturbed criminals, many held in states of chemical-induced passivity. An ideal scenario for Savile to fulfil his perverse needs.
A latter-day analysis of Savile has concluded he wasn't interested in sex per se; instead, power was his kick. Significantly, this analysis concluded that Savile was not criminally insane - he knew what he was doing, tested the waters, and then escalated, if not stopped. In short, there were multiple opportunities to stop him.
Many folks at the BBC and assorted others have taken cover under the convenient carapace of 'Savile grooming the nation' to avoid an examination of their roles. Again, they turn a blind eye.
This brings me to the British Police, who Savile held close. Even late in life, every Friday morning, a group of trusted police friends would gather at Savile's flat in Leeds. At this point, I'm shouting at the TV, "Who are these cops? What is their role?"
It is undoubtedly true the documentary acknowledges this clout by association gained by Savile but does not dig into any of it. Instead, we are left wondering who these senior police officers are? What was discussed? What was the purpose of these regular sessions with Savile? But Savile is not shy in asserting that he has top cover from the police, the royals, and the rest of the establishment.
He makes this clear in several public utterances. For example, in an interview published in The Independent on Sunday, Savile talks about finding relief in being knighted in 1990 because it got him "off the hook."
There is a Hong Kong connection in all this. Former governor Chris Patten was Chair of the BBC when the Savile scandal broke; that the BBC sought to cover up its role in the Savile saga is well known. According to media reports, Patten walked away from the job with a stained reputation.
As years pass and more details emerge, Jimmy Savile's facilitators must hope matters would die down. In that sense, this Netflix effort helps bring attention to how the likes of Savile operate behind a screen of powerful friends.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.