THE inquiry into alleged child abuse by Jimmy Savile is now a formal criminal investigation involving other living people, Scotland Yard said today.
Operation Yewtree has moved from an assessment to a criminal investigation after detectives established there are lines of inquiry involving “living people that require formal investigation”.
Scotland Yard said two weeks of gathering information has involved assessing more than 400 lines of inquiry and has identified more than 200 potential victims.
The force said: “As we have said from the outset, our work was never going to take us into a police investigation into Jimmy Savile.
“What we have established in the last two weeks is that there are lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.”
Operation Yewtree, originally an “assessment” into claims against Savile, was launched after allegations flooded out in the wake of an ITV documentary screened earlier this month.
Today the NSPCC said it is possible the former Top of the Pops presenter was “one of the most prolific sex offenders” the charity has ever come across.
Claims have also emerged about fellow entertainers Freddie Starr, who has staunchly refuted the allegations, as well as Gary Glitter - real name Paul Gadd.
As well as police investigations, inquiries are taking place into his involvement with Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Broadmoor and Leeds General Infirmary.
Dame Janet Smith, who headed the Shipman Inquiry, has been appointed to head an inquiry into Savile’s time at the BBC and today Scotland Yard said they recognised “her need to progress this important work”.
“We are now in a position to advise the BBC that they can ask the chair of the BBC Executive Board Dame Fiona Reynolds to begin her review to run parallel to our investigation.
“We will develop a protocol to ensure any future potential criminal action is not jeopardised.”
It has also emerged that the BBC is aiming to rush a special edition of Panorama into its schedules looking into issues surrounding Jimmy Savile’s years of abuse, which could be run on Monday.
Commander Peter Spindler, from Scotland Yard, said: “The public’s response to this issue has been astounding. We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale. The profile of this operation has empowered a staggering number of victims to come forward to report the sexual exploitation which occurred during their childhood.
“I am pleased that victims feel confident enough to speak out about the abuse they suffered and would like to reassure the public that we take all these cases very seriously and they will be investigated with the utmost sensitivity.”
Police previously said Savile’s alleged catalogue of sex abuse could have spanned six decades.
Peter Watt, head of the NSPCC’s helpline, said: “It’s now looking possible that Jimmy Savile was one the most prolific sex offenders the NSPCC has ever come across.
“We have received over 136 calls directly relating to allegations against him which we’ve passed to the police.
“It’s important we recognise the brave step victims have taken in coming forward and we urge any other victims to do the same.
“We are also finding more and more people coming forward and reporting unrelated abuse after hearing the victims in this case speak out. Many are only just doing so after years of keeping it to themselves.”
He said the NSPCC’s priority is to support these people working with partner organisations like the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC).
Meanwhile, the Royal Marines have started cutting their long-standing ties with Savile amid continuing public revulsion at his alleged child sex abuse crimes.
A framed photograph of the late BBC TV star and charity fundraiser has been removed from a function suite named in his honour at the Marine training school at Lympstone, near Exmouth in Devon.
The Marines are now considering renaming the suite, currently known as the Savile Room.
Savile was awarded one of the Marines’ coveted green berets after completing a week’s training course at Lympstone in the 1960s.
He maintained his links with the elite naval corps and his beret was buried alongside him following his death aged 84 last October.
His coffin had been carried into his funeral service at St Anne’s Cathedral in Leeds by seven Marines.
The removal of the Lympstone tribute mirrors the actions of many other people and places previously associated with Leeds-born Savile.
Leeds conference venue Saviles Hall is changing its name while plans for a statue of the entertainer in the city’s Roundhay Park have been scrapped.
His elaborate gravestone has also been removed from Scarborough’s Woodlands Cemetery.
A Department of Health investigation has also been launched into Savile’s activities during his charity work at three hospitals – Leeds General Infirmary, Buckinghamshire’s Stoke Mandeville and Berkshire’s Broadmoor.
The current flood of allegations against the star was unleashed following an ITV documentary about his private life that aired at the start of this month.
• Another top BBC personality of yesteryear, the late Steptoe and Son actor Wilfrid Brambell, has been accused of abusing two boys in Jersey in the 1970s.
One alleged victim was a resident at the island’s Haut de la Garenne children’s home, which was recently the subject of the largest child abuse investigation ever mounted in the British Isles.
Savile is known to have been a visitor to Haut de la Garenne, which closed as a children’s home in 1986.