Savile: Now 300 victims - and did Leeds doctors collude in child abuse network?

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THREE doctors, including at Leeds General Infirmary, were involved in a network of child abusers connected with disgraced television presenter Jimmy Savile, it was claimed today.

Information has been passed to police about the trio, who worked at hospitals where Savile had links and have been accused by alleged victims in the last two weeks, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Jimmy Savile.

Jimmy Savile.

Police are examining individuals who might have had access to vulnerable children, some of whom were associated with Savile, the newspaper said.

The former DJ, who died last year aged 84, had a bedroom at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, an office and living quarters at Broadmoor and widespread access to Leeds General Infirmary.

Police are now dealing with around 300 alleged victims of Savile, Scotland Yard revealed today.

Commander Peter Spindler said officers were following more than 400 lines of inquiry linked to the victims, of whom all except two are women.

He said investigators have so far spoken to 130 people who have come forward, and 114 allegations of crime have emerged.

Officers are using a “triage” approach, first making contact with victims by phone to get initial details of their allegations, Mr Spindler said.

He told reporters that most of the allegations are linked to Savile, but some involve others who may have acted with him.

The inquiry will be a “watershed” moment in the investigation of child abuse, he said.

Mr Spindler said Savile was “undoubtedly” one of the most prolific sex offenders of recent history.

He said allegations reported today that doctors in hospitals had been involved in abuse “hadn’t come through to us at the moment”.

He said that the weight of evidence against the late DJ was overwhelming.

He said: “We have to believe what they are saying because they are all saying the same thing independently.”

Mr Spindler said a retired officer had been in touch to say he had investigated Savile in the 1980s while based in west London but he had not had the evidence to proceed.

He said he believed the allegation was of an indecent assault on BBC premises but officers have still not found the original file.

He added that Savile had been protected because “children or young people” had not felt “empowered to speak out”.

Today Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a Department of Health inquiry into Savile would cover “everything we need to do”.

He told ITV1’s Daybreak: “The big question that we need to answer is whether, because of his celebrity status, Jimmy Savile was given special treatment, in terms of access to hospitals, keys to hospitals, and things that ordinary people wouldn’t have been given and shouldn’t have been given.

“But I think our first priority is to co-operate with the police and help them get to the bottom of what has happened. But also at the same time our hearts go out to all the people who have been affected by this.”

Former barrister Kate Lampard has been brought in to oversee the investigations into Savile at the three hospitals.

Police have refused to comment on reports that more than 20 allegations of abuse are being investigated at Savile’s cottage in the Scottish Highlands.

The Sun newspaper published a photograph today of what it said were detectives searching the property, Allt na Reigh, in Glencoe.

Savile is said to have entertained a number of celebrities at the cottage.

Plans to turn the remote property into a respite care centre for the disabled were reportedly halted when the Jimmy Savile Charitable Trust closed down amid the growing sex abuse scandal.

Since the allegations about Savile emerged, children’s charity the NSPCC said it had received 161 calls relating to him, which have been passed to police.

A decision not to prosecute Savile over abuse allegations in 2009 will come under the spotlight again after the Prime Minister said Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer would review legal papers from the case.

Surrey Police submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) containing references to four potential offences, including an allegation of indecent assault on a young girl at a children’s home, but it was dropped due to a lack of evidence.

Mr Starmer said the evidence was considered by prosecutors, but because the alleged victims would not support police action it was decided not to proceed.

It was considered again by the chief crown prosecutor for the South East, Roger Coe-Salazar, who backed the original decision.

However Mr Starmer said the files will be reviewed again “out of an abundance of caution”.

The scandal has plunged the BBC into crisis, and MP Sir Roger Gale, a former BBC journalist, suggested that bosses George Entwistle and Lord Patten may have to “fall on their swords” over the corporation’s handling of the situation.

Their case will not be helped by allegations in The Sun that two more BBC employees are suspected of sex crimes on the same scale as Savile, and that information on them has been passed to police.

The newspaper said the BBC would not disclose if the pair were still at the corporation.

It emerged on Tuesday that the BBC is investigating nine allegations of “sexual harassment, assault or inappropriate conduct” among current staff and contributors.

Mr Entwistle, who took over as director general last month, was roundly criticised for his appearance before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday, when he was told to “get a grip” on his organisation.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said Mr Entwistle “left questions unanswered”, and described some of his answers as “surprising”.

Mr Entwistle told MPs the “broader cultural problem” at the BBC allowed Savile’s alleged behaviour to take place and conceded the corporation was slow to react to the emerging crisis.

He also expressed regret that Newsnight did not press ahead with the investigation last year that included interviews with some of the star’s victims.

Former BBC director general Mark Thompson also faces questions over whether he is the right person to take charge of the New York Times newspaper in the wake of the Savile scandal.

In an interview with the Guardian, Mr Thompson, who is due to become the New York Times chief executive on November 12, said it was “totally reasonable for institutions like the New York Times and the BBC to be free to examine everything, including subjects of corporate interest in the institution itself”.

The New York Times editor wrote that the newspaper must consider if Mr Thompson is right for the job, the Guardian said, a move the former director general said was “completely correct”.