MICHAEL Parkinson, the veteran television chat show host, has acknowledged that the BBC made mistakes in the way it handled allegations of abuse against Jimmy Savile.
In a radio interview to be broadcast tonight, Parkinson, who worked for the corporation for many years, said he was looking at the BBC “with despair” in light of the deluge of revelations about Savile’s abusive behaviour throughout his career.
But Parkinson goes on to say that the real question at the heart of the scandal was why the DJ was allowed access to schools and hospitals, where he met some of his most vulnerable victims.
“I knew Savile. I didn’t much like him. That’s not hindsight. I couldn’t understand why he became so popular,” Parkinson tells Classic FM.
“But I’ll make one observation about the BBC. The BBC got a kicking on that. But at least he had a reason for being at the BBC. He was employed by the BBC and he had to work there.
“What on earth was he doing, what was his reason to be at Broadmoor? What was his reason to be at Stoke Mande-ville? What was his reason to be at the hospital in Leeds and, particularly, what reason did he have to go to a school? Come on. That’s the worst aspect of it, I think. At least at the BBC he had to be there.”
Parkinson said he first met Savile, who died last year, in Manchester in the 1960s when they both worked at Granada TV.
Looking back, he said he could see now that the disgraced star seemed to have his own agenda. “He was not a man who sought the company of people, with hindsight now, who couldn’t help him. In those days, we didn’t know he was being selective, we just thought he had his own gig and off he went to do it. Nobody ever got really close to him at all,” Parkinson says.
Scotland Yard, which is leading the inquiry into Savile, has said that its officers are currently dealing with around 450 potential abuse victims, the vast majority of whom claim they fell prey to the DJ.
Yesterday fresh fears were raised about the extent of Savile’s activities at Leeds General Infirmary in Yorkshire, where he was a volunteer porter at the height of his fame in the 1970s.
Health chiefs revealed in October that they had been contacted by two people about alleged incidents involving Savile at the city hospital dating from that period.
But now it is understood that more potential cases have come to light in recent weeks.
The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust reportedly confirmed on Friday that the number of alleged incidents involving the Jim’ll Fix It host on its premises currently stands at six. All are thought to relate to Leeds General Infirmary.
The new figure emerged following a request made to the trust under the Freedom of Information Act.
In its response, the trust reportedly said it could not comment on the nature of the incidents, as doing so could prejudice “the prevention or detection of crime”.
According to reports, the trust added that no complaints appeared to have been made about Savile at the hospital prior to the current scandal.
However, health chiefs admitted that details of complaints lodged in the past could yet be uncovered, adding: “Much of the contact Jimmy Savile had with our hospitals dates back over a period of four decades.
“An internal investigation will be conducted, including a review of documents covering that period, and it is therefore possible that as a result of that work, additional information will be generated.”
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard has confirmed that a man in his 80s was being interviewed by detectives investigating the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal.
The suspect, from Berkshire, was being questioned under part of the investigation that does not directly relate to Savile. A number of celebrities have been arrested since the scandal broke, including former pop star Gary Glitter, 68, who was held on suspicion of sex offences and bailed until the middle of this month, and comedian Freddie Starr, who was also arrested on suspicion of sexual offences.