BBC director-general George Entwistle, seen leaving his
home in south London, has admitted that the broadcaster has
been damaged by the Jimmy Savile case. REUTERS/Olivia
The family of the BBC presenter at the centre of a sex
abuse scandal that has rocked the broadcaster has offered its
"deepest sympathy" to the late Jimmy Savile's victims, saying
it felt "despair and sadness".
The statement came as the Vatican, responding to a letter
from the Catholic Church in England asking whether Savile's
papal knighthood could be revoked, said the honour died with
the person but in hindsight "should not have been bestowed".
Police said this week that some 300 victims had come forward
and that they were preparing to make arrests in a scandal
that has already damaged the BBC's reputation.
Savile's nephew Roger Foster said the family had been unaware
of the TV host's "darker side" and was struggling to
reconcile the image of the man they loved with the
allegations of abuse of young girls.
"How could the person we thought we knew and loved do such a
thing?" said the statement. "We recognise that even our own
despair and sadness does not compare to that felt by the
Savile, a cigar-chomping former DJ who was one of the BBC's
top presenters, died last year aged 84.
The scandal has destroyed the reputation of a man who had
been widely admired and honoured for his charity work, and
has raised troubling questions about the BBC's management and
its workplace culture in the past.
Police have said Savile was "undoubtedly" one of Britain's
most prolific sex offenders, while the head of the BBC's
governing body has called the allegations a "tsunami of
"Our thoughts and our prayers are with those who have
suffered from every kind of abuse over so many years and we
offer our deepest sympathy in what must have been a terrible
time for all of them," the family statement to the Yorkshire
Evening Post newspaper read.
Foster said he had watched "in horror" as British TV channel
ITV first aired an expose "with allegations of a darker side
to him that we knew nothing about".
Faced with growing public outrage at the allegations, the
family decided to remove the headstone on Savile's grave and
destroy it to avoid it becoming a target for vandals.
BBC Director General George Entwistle, who has been sharply
criticised by politicians for his handling of the case, has
admitted that the broadcaster has been damaged by the case.
The scandal has reached beyond Britain, generating attention
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.
It has now reached the Vatican, after the head of the Roman
Catholic Church in England, Archbishop of Westminster Vincent
Nichols, wrote a letter.
"The archbishop has written to the competent office of the
Holy See with a request to investigate if anything can be
done about Savile's papal knighthood," the archbishop's
spokesman said, adding that the letter was sent last week.
The papal knighthood is one of the highest honours bestowed
by the pope and is reserved for lay people and the military.
British media reports said Savile had been made a knight by
the late Pope John Paul II in 1990 for his charity work.
Even as the investigation was still ongoing, Nichols acted in
recognition of the "deep distress" suffered by any abuse
victims, the spokesman said.
However, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there was
no way to revoke a knighthood posthumously since there is no
permanent list of people who have received it in the past.
"The honour dies with the individual," he said. "It's not
possible to strike a deceased person off a list that does not
exist," Lombardi said.
He added that the Vatican was "deeply saddened that a person
who has been stained by such acts could in his lifetime have
been proposed for an honour by the Holy See".
The Catholic Church has been hit by child abuse scandals in
Europe and the United States in recent years, forcing it to
pay hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation
worldwide. The scandals have damaged its status as a moral
The Savile scandal has raised questions over the celebrity
culture in Britain, with critics saying that his stardom had
given him a sense of impunity.
A top PR consultant in Britain, Max Clifford, said several
celebrities had contacted him out of fear they might be
associated with the scandal.
"In the last few days, I have had an awful lot of calls and
expect to get a lot more, some from very famous people who in
the 1960s and 1970s were in the middle of this music
explosion in this country," he told Sky News.
"They are all saying that they were totally unaware and they
themselves have never done anything remotely like Jimmy
Savile. Naturally they are concerned because names are being
mentioned." he added, according to Sky News.