There won’t be many people out there that follow international news who haven’t heard the shocking revelations from the UK that the late Sir Jimmy Savile, a pillar of BBC broadcasting for over 40 years, may well have been one of the most prolific serial sex offenders in British history.
Since the death last year of the former host of the ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Jim’ll Fix It’ presenter at the age of 84, a growing and compelling case of abuse of young girls spanning as much as half a century has emerged, together with the equally disturbing allegations that senior figures at the BBC knew of his behaviour as far back as the 1970’s and did nothing about it. Indeed, the investigation has now widened to allegedly include up to 30 British media figures, with the questioning of his former pal and convicted paedophile rock star Gary Glitter also grabbing the headlines.
Jimmy Savile was clearly a very complex and manipulative man with a very murky private life, a sordid character who masked his penchant for young girls by setting up a series of high profile and hugely successful charities around Britain that raised tens of millions of pounds for children’s causes, (most notably the Stoke Mandeville Children’s Hospital), successfully deflecting attention away from any meaningful questions about his personal behaviour. For most of his life he lived in north Leeds, the area of the north of England city with a significant Jewish population – the community in which I was born and raised.
Savile once described himself as “the most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet”. He helped raise money for Jewish causes in Leeds and beyond, all (it would appear) as a smokescreen to keep on-side the community in whose midst he lived. The sense of betrayal amongst those who knew him following the shocking investigation that now threatens to potentially bring down the BBC, was reflected last week in the Leeds Jewish Community Centre recently removing a plaque that had been unveiled in his honour.
Savile, who visited Israel on a number of occasions, met senior political figures here in the 1970’s, and as recently as 2005 raised money for Netanya’s Laniado Hospital, is quoted as saying in one of his last interviews, “I’m not a straight punter. When I’m gone they’ll say, ‘I always thought he was straight but he wasn’t — he was crooked.”
Before anyone suggests any Jewish connection to his crimes, it should be categorically stated that Savile managed to deceive everyone from all communities and at all levels in British society and beyond. He was awarded a papal knighthood (Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great) at the Vatican by Pope John Paul II, to go alongside the knighthood he received from Queen Elizabeth II. He was a friend of the rich and famous, of royalty, rock stars, movie stars, television personalities, and many politicians.
It now appears, quite simply, that Sir Jimmy Savile was the ultimate fraudster and a repulsive criminal. In many ways his fraud was made all the worse by his gross deception of the British people, of the people of my home town of Leeds, and of the Jewish community amongst whom he lived much of his life, befriended, and, it now seems without a shadow of doubt, coldly and completely deceived.