Savile, branded an “opportunistic sexual predator” by investigators, used the NHS and his celebrity status to “exploit and abuse” vulnerable patients and staff. His victims ranged in age from five to 75.
Among the most disturbing findings are “macabre accounts” of claims the TV and radio presenter, who died in 2011, performed sex acts on dead bodies in the mortuary at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) and at least one other hospital.
The shocking details were revealed in the findings of investigations into 28 hospitals, including high-security Broadmoor, where Savile sexually abused at least five people, including two patients who were subjected to repeated assaults.
Shortly after their publication yesterday, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologised on behalf of the government and the NHS to the victims of Savile’s “sickening” sexual abuse. Labour called for a code of conduct to be drawn up outlining the “appropriate relationship” between the NHS and celebrities or business backers.
Discussing the LGI findings at a press conference in London, Julian Hartley, chief executive of the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “As a Leeds citizen and a well-known celebrity for more than six decades, it is perhaps understandable that Savile would have had some involvement with hospitals in the city.
“This report, however, paints a grim picture of an individual with a very dark side who used his role as a volunteer and fundraiser, combined with his national fame, to mask a range of dreadful acts he perpetrated on children and adults alike over a prolonged period of time.”
Among the 28 hospitals investigated were Moss Side, in Liverpool, which is now one of three top-security psychiatric hospitals in England, along with Rampton and Broadmoor.
Two female former patients accused Savile of sexually abusing them in a ward, and a third allegation came from a male ex-patient who claimed he witnessed Savile stroke a patient’s breast at a hospital social event.
Investigators found Savile had raped a woman in a motor home at Digby Hospital, a psychiatric unit in Exeter, in 1970, while a former patient at the mental health unit at High Royds Hospital, Leeds, claimed Savile had inappropriately touched people during a fancy-dress fun- run in the 1980s.
But some of the most shocking discoveries were made during the investigations into the LGI and Broadmoor.
Investigators heard the entertainer, who was 84 when he died, claimed to have “interfered with the bodies of deceased patients” at the LGI mortuary, while a patient at Barnet General Hospital in London overheard nurses discussing how they had seen Savile have sex with a dead body at another hospital.
The Leeds team said while there was no way of proving Savile had violated bodies in this way, they concluded that “it is evident his interest in the mortuary was not within accepted boundaries”.
Dr Sue Proctor, who led the investigation into Savile’s abuse at LGI, said Savile had claimed that large rings he wore were “made from the glass eyes of dead bodies at the mortuary”.
Dr Proctor said while the allegations could not be verified now, they had to be considered in the context that the controls around access to the mortuary in the 1980s were “lax”.
Savile’s other victims at the LGI ranged from a child of just five years old to pensioners, and they included men, women, boys and girls.
The investigators discovered members of staff at LGI had failed to pass on complaints of abuse to senior managers, who could have acted to stop it happening.
The report into his activities at LGI, after he started his association with the hospital in 1960, included the testimonies of 60 people who gave their accounts to investigators. Thirty-three of these were patients and three of the incidents were rapes, the investigators said.
In the case of Broadmoor, they found “clear failings” in the way access to wards was controlled. Savile had keys allowing him unrestricted access to ward areas within the security perimeter. In another disturbing finding, it was noted Savile sometimes watched as female patients undressed for baths in the ward and at other times looked through doorways while making inappropriate comments.
His “often flamboyantly inappropriate” attitude towards women was seen as part of his public act – “just Jimmy”, the report found.
While fewer assaults were reported to have taken place at Broadmoor than other hospitals, the inquiry concluded Savile was “an opportunistic sexual predator” throughout the time he was associated with the institution.
Investigator Dr Bill Kirkup said the report’s findings were “likely to represent an underestimate of the true picture”.
A joint statement from NHS chiefs described the findings of the investigations as “truly awful”, while the current chief executives of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and West London Mental Health NHS Trust, which covers Broadmoor, apologised to victims.
In a statement to MPs, Mr Hunt said: “Today I want to apologise on behalf of the government and the NHS to all the victims who were abused by Savile in NHS-run institutions.
“We let them down badly and, however long ago it may have been, many of them are still reliving the pain they went through.”
A spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “deeply shocked”, adding it was “important lessons are learned”.
Savile, a Radio 1 DJ who also presented the BBC’s Top of the Pops and Jim’ll Fix It, died in October 2011 – a year before allegations he had sexually abused children were broadcast in an ITV documentary, Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile.
The documentary ultimately led to a joint review by the Metropolitan Police and children’s charity the NSPCC, which in turn triggered separate NHS investigations.
A key report into his activities at Stoke Mandeville Hospital has been delayed after new information recently came to light.
In the House of Lords yesterday, the Bishop of Durham called for a public inquiry into abuse, as peers expressed anger and disgust over the scale of Savile’s sexual assaults.
The Rt Rev Paul Butler said cases such as Savile highlighted that “we have a long history of abuse within institutions” including schools, care homes and churches.
“If we don’t face up to the past failures, we will never really improve the future,” he said.
“Powerful people have engaged in serious abuse and worked with each other to create opportunities and share their vices and victims.”
He said an independent inquiry should examine institutionally based abuse going back up to 50 years. It would take time and be costly. But the “true cost of child abuse and abuse of adults at risk is far higher than any of us have ever been prepared to acknowledge”.
Mr Butler added: “Justice, fairness and the very health of our society demands we no longer hide away from this dark part of our story.
“We need an independent public inquiry’ and we need it very soon.”