Former BBC Director-general Mark Thompson. REUTERS/Gonzalo
British police investigating alleged sexual abuse by one
of the BBC's most celebrated TV stars say some 300 victims have
come forward and they are preparing to make arrests in a
scandal that has thrown the broadcaster into disarray.
Detectives said they had been staggered by the number of
people who had come forward since the late Jimmy Savile's
crimes were first revealed just over three weeks ago.
The head of the BBC's governing body called the allegations a
"tsunami of filth", and police said Savile was "undoubtedly"
one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders ever.
"It's quite staggering," said the police inquiry leader,
Commander Peter Spindler.
Having interviewed 130 of the alleged victims, officers had
recorded 114 reports of sexual assault or serious sexual
assault, mostly against Savile - the outlandish,
cigar-chomping DJ turned TV host who was one of the BBC's top
presenters of the 1970s and 1980s.
The allegations, which first emerged in an expose on the
rival British TV channel ITV, have rocked the BBC, with its
chief George Entwistle admitting the broadcaster has been
damaged by the scandal.
The revelations have generated huge attention, not least in
the United States where Entwistle's predecessor at the BBC,
Mark Thompson, is poised to take over as chief executive of
the New York Times.
On Wednesday, lawyers representing some 30 alleged victims of
abuse told Reuters their clients said other celebrities were
involved, while some of those abused by Savile have told the
media they were targeted on BBC premises.
"We are preparing an arrest strategy now," Spindler told
reporters, adding he could not identify who their suspects
were or whether they also had worked for the BBC. "We do have
a number of other people that we can investigate."
Entwistle, who only took over the most prestigious role in
British media in September, appeared before a parliamentary
commission this week to explain why the BBC had dropped its
own investigation shortly after Savile died last year.
His performance in parliament was described as "lamentable"
by one lawmaker, and his overall handling of one of the worst
crises in the BBC's 90-year history has been widely
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the BBC, paid for by an
annual tax on all households with a colour TV, had serious
questions to answer.
"We have to deal with the terrible damage to the reputation
of the BBC which has hitherto been a national institution
which people have trusted," Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC
Trust which oversees the broadcaster, told BBC Radio.
"It was a very, very difficult initial baptism of fire for a
new director general of the BBC, this great tsunami of filth
broke over him 11 days into the job."
Savile, knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his charity work and
famous for his garish outfits and long blonde hair, was a
household name in Britain but little known beyond its shores.
Such has been the publicity surrounding the case that
Spindler said the number of historic abuse allegations
reported to police in London alone had trebled, calling their
inquiry a "watershed moment for child abuse investigation".
He said they were investigating three categories of offences;
those that involved just Savile which made up the vast
majority of cases; those involving Savile and others; and
those which had no direct link to Savile.
At this stage there was no evidence of any organised
paedophile rings and offenders appeared to be opportunists,
He revealed that a retired officer had come forward to say he
had investigated Savile in the 1980s over allegations of
indecent assault but there had not been enough evidence to
pursue a prosecution.