Jimmy Savile investigation: Mark Thompson denies being briefed about abuse allegations

Former BBC director general Mark Thompson. Picture: PA
Former BBC director general Mark Thompson. Picture: PA
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THE office of the BBC’s director general was twice alerted to the Savile abuse allegations over the past five months, it was reported yesterday.

However, Mark Thompson, who was replaced by George Entwhistle last month, said he was neither “notified nor briefed” of details of a shelved BBC Newsnight investigation into the scandal.

Mr Thompson said yesterday he did not know about the nature of the Newsnight investigation into Savile, and had no involvement in the decision to axe the report.

A spokesman for Mr Thompson, who is to become chief executive of the New York Times, said he had not been told about the abuse allegations when they were made in May and September. A newspaper journalist is reported to have contacted the head of Mr Thompson’s office about Savile in May, but was told to speak to the BBC press office.

His office chief said she did not inform Mr Thompson about the allegations, which are also said to have been tabled in a freedom of information request rejected several months earlier.

A spokesman for Mr Thompson said he “was not aware of the conversation”.

He added that Mr Thompson “was on holiday at the time and this brief conversation was not relayed to him”.

It was also reported that Mr Thompson’s office was again contacted about Savile in September. This time, it came in an e-mail from ITV, which was separately investigating the entertainer, sent to both the BBC editorial policy department and Mr Thompson’s office.

A BBC spokesman confirmed the e-mail had been received. He added: “We cannot say definitively it did not go anywhere else.”

Mr Thompson’s spokesman said: “Mark does not recall being briefed and took no part in the response to the e-mail. This response was handled by colleagues in BBC Journalism.”

In a statement, the BBC said: “Thompson has said the first time he had been made aware of claims that Savile had committed serious crimes and that some had taken place while the entertainer was working at the BBC was after he stepped down as director general.”

It was also reported yesterday that Newsnight editor Peter Rippon, who has been moved aside pending an inquiry, is considering suing the BBC for defamation. He was heavily criticised for calling a halt to the Newsnight Savile investigation, which he was reported to have told friends had been “horribly botched”.

ALASTAIR DALTON