Jimmy Savile was once suspected of being the Yorkshire Ripper, according to a senior officer who worked on the inquiry.
Former West Yorkshire Police detective John Stainthorpe said the disgraced presenter was a suspect in the notorious case more than 30 years ago.
But Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe has jumped to the defence of Savile, whom he claims is innocent and says befriended him during visits to Broadmoor high security hospital.
Mr Stainthorpe, who spent 40 years in the force, said yesterday: “When the Ripper was really active, one of the suspects put forward by the public was, in fact, Jimmy Savile. Obviously it was not he, but he was interviewed, along with many others.”
Mr Stainthorpe said the person who gave police the anonymous tip-off was “aiming in the right direction”.
“Child perverts soon become child killers,” he added.
Peter Sutcliffe was convicted in 1981 of murdering 13 women and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He is held at Broadmoor and has been told he will never be freed.
Sutcliffe yesterday claimed Savile regularly visited him in custody and the pair became friends.
Rubbishing claims the late DJ abused around 300 victims over six decades, he said those making allegations were “jumping on the bandwagon”.
Sutcliffe, 66, said: “It’s a load of rubbish. People are just getting carried away.
“He visited a lot. He’d always come and chat with me on visits and I would introduce him to my visitors. Several times he left £500 for charities I was supporting.”
Savile, who died a year ago aged 84, is now believed by police to be one of the UK’s most prolific child abusers.
Scotland Yard is leading a national investigation into the television and radio star’s activities.
Detectives are following 400 lines of inquiry, while the BBC has launched an investigation into the culture and practices at the corporation in the era of Savile’s alleged sexual abuse.
The Savile scandal has led to a flood of allegations of child sex abuse. The National Crime Agency is to head a new police investigation into abuse in children’s homes in North Wales in the 1970s and 1980s amid claims that a senior Conservative was among the perpetrators.
Home Secretary Theresa May announced yesterday the agency’s director-general, Keith Bristow, would review the original police handling of the case as well as looking at the latest allegations by one of the victims.
“The government is treating these allegations with the utmost seriousness,” she told MPs in a Commons statement.
“We must not allow these allegations to go unanswered.”
In a further development last night, Downing Street said Mrs Justice Julia Wendy Macur, a High Court judge, would carry out the review of the original Waterhouse inquiry announced yesterday by David Cameron.
Ms May said she would also consider Labour calls for a wider, over-arching inquiry into child abuse – including the allegations involving Savile – if the evidence was shown to justify it.
However, Labour backbencher Tom Watson, who recently raised claims of a past paedophile ring linked to No 10 and of a former Cabinet minister allegedly involved in child abuse, dismissed the latest moves as simply “the next stage of a cover-up”.
The announcement came after David Cameron said on Monday that he would be appointing a senior figure to review the original public inquiry into abuse at the home led by Sir Ronald Waterhouse, a retired High Court judge.
The investigations followed renewed allegations last week by one of the victims, Steve Messham, who said the Waterhouse inquiry – which reported in 2000 – examined only a fraction of the claims of abuse.
He said he was taken out of the Bryn Estyn children’s home and “sold” to men for sexual abuse at a nearby hotel and that a senior Tory from the time was among the perpetrators.
In her statement yesterday, Ms May warned MPs not to use parliamentary privilege to try to name the alleged suspect as it could jeopardise any future criminal trial.
Mr Bristow will lead a team of officers drawn from the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre and “other investigative assets as necessary”. He will produce an initial report by next April.
Ms May said that HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, which is drawing together details of allegations made to police forces around the country against Savile, would be able to take into account any lessons that emerge during his inquiry.
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, called for an over-arching inquiry taking in all the outstanding issues of child abuse, including the Savile allegations.