(Warning - the content of this post obvously refers to matters which are deeply unpleasant)
Wherever possible, I prefer to stick to the facts. Accordingly, this post might be considered an aberration.
However, while I was watching a programme broadcast on Channel 5 last night entitled 'Jimmy Savile: Britain's Worst Crimes'
, the thought occurred to me that the degree of freedom to offend in multiple locations that Savile seemed to enjoy for decades, at a time when he was establishing relationships with both the Royal Family and Margaret Thatcher (for whose closeness to Savile I can't recall having heard David Cameron utter a word of concern), meant that he must have enjoyed some degree of official protection.
One of the interviewees was Guy Marsden, Savile's nephew. In the late 1960's, Mr. Marsden apparently left Leeds for London. He was then aged fifteen, and was enticed into a circle in which he came into contact with paedophiles. He described having seen his uncle bringing younger children into 'parties' attended by men from all levels of society. These men would then take the younger children into bedrooms. Mr. Marsden returned to Leeds after a year, and now believes he was being groomed to become a procurer.
Another interviewee was Paul Connew, in 1994 the editor of the 'Sunday Mirror'. That year, he was approached by two women who had encountered Savile while they attended Duncroft Approved School. They wished it reported that he had abused them. Mr. Connew indicated that he believed them. Eventually, neither woman decided to proceed with the exercise. Mr. Connew indicated that he later had a conversation with the late George Carman QC
, during which Carman indicated that Savile was very grateful that the report had not appeared. Mr. Connew was surprised by this, as he had thought that the only people who had been aware of the matter had been the two women and himself.
All of this is, of course, evidence of nothing. However, such events enable one to ontologically construct a version of events which may explain why Savile's offending went unhalted for so long, and why he was able to behave in the way that he did with apparent impunity.
The programme made clear that Savile was a thug and a bully. Even near the end of his life, during a 2009 police interview that was irregularly conducted in his office at Stoke Mandeville Hospital instead of at a police station, he was threatening to pursue those who had made allegations against him. Bullies can intimidate, but one bully cannot keep a country quiet for over forty years through the force of their own personality.
If Mr. Marsden's recollections of the type of men he saw at the 'parties' he attended are correct, then men from the top end of society were abusing small children to whom they were introduced by Savile. He may have been the procurer; he may have been a lure; we'll never know. However, if the wrong type of top person were caught being involved in this activity at that time, the consequences could have been catastrophic. The ghastly Profumo affair was still fresh in the public mind, and nobody wanted to go through that again. The security services may have felt a need to keep in touch with someone who moved in those type of circles in order to keep them appraised of what was going on - and who better than Savile, like Rasputin
an outlandish provincial non-entity, and one whose entire career was built upon him having a positive public image? In matters of sex, betrayal of trust was Savile's stock in trade. He betrayed those he abused - why would he not betray fellow abusers? He would have known full well that he stood to lose everything if exposed - so why did he seem to have no fear of exposure?
The episode with Paul Connew and George Carman seems downright alarming. It might be the case that the very small circle that Mr. Connew thought was aware of the two women's allegations was not secure; careless talks costs lives, and all that. However, that the subject of a newspaper investigation should be aware that he was being investigated when the whole process was being conducted with great secrecy suggests another, more sinister possibility; that Mr. Connew was the subject of official surveillance, and that the news that the investigation was being carried out was passed to Savile.
Would the security services have conducted surveillance upon newspaper editors at that time? That's the wrong question. The right question is 'Why wouldn't they have?' The media world has changed dramatically since 1994. Facebook and Twitter have not silenced dead tree journalism completely, but by and large newspapers are vastly less powerful now than they were then. Being the editor of a national newspaper in those days was a position that held real power; and in a country so obsessed with the holding and wielding of power as the United Kingdom, anyone who wishes to challenge power must expect official attention.
(It was striking that this event happened in 1994, the year in which Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour Party. Two things occurred to me; that Blair was notoriously keen on developing positive relationships with the media, and that although mobile phone technology was then still largely in its infancy it's unlikely that a newspaper editor who was the subject of surveillance would have dreamed of hacking voicemails).
One of the most bizarre revelations that came to light after Savile's death was that he had apparently acted as a relationship counsellor to the Prince of Wales during his separation. Being a bachelor and a deviant, this would seem to have been a role for which he was even more grossly unsuited than usual; yet his attractions as a confidante might have been considerable. It seems to me that the only reason why the Prince of Wales would call upon him for advice was that he must have been the only person in his circle he could trust to be absolutely discreet. This should not be surprising; he was a lifelong keeper of secrets, and if he could carry his own he could carry those of the Prince of Wales. It is depressing to think that in time of crisis the only person to whom the heir to the throne thought he could turn was Jimmy Savile. In the high social circles in which he moved, Savile must have had a reputation for not talking; which might have been why Margaret Thatcher felt secure enough in his company to invite him to spend New Year at Chequers during every year of her premiership.
Yet it surely cannot be the case that someone would be able to get so close to both Buckingham Palace and Downing Street, particularly someone of such little apparent accomplishment as Savile, a freakish figure in peroxide and gold lame, as effective a disguise as any found in nature, without the security services knowing everything there was to know about him. I cannot believe that this was not the case - if anything, his offending was often so flagrant that it must have drawn attention to itself. It may be the case that this is what the senior civil servant who suggested in the 1980's that Savile should not be awarded a knighthood was referring to when he described him as a 'strange and complex man'
As I've said, this is all conjecture. However, I cannot reconcile the idea of Savile being a predatory sex offender (and he was a predator; I recently saw some old footage on TV of him walking round a hospital ward, and it was obvious that he was hunting) with him being a friend of princes and Prime Ministers. The two concepts are irreconcilable; so attempting to reconcile them is fruitless. His behaviour was so bad that someone must have known about it; and if so, that person did our country a great dis-service.
The UK's security services are a patriotic bunch, and one of the hazards of patriotism is falling into nation worship. It could have been the case that nobody knew, and that he breezed to the top of society without anyone noticing. However, if someone did know and did nothing, or did know and turned a blind eye in return for what Savile was able to tell them about what they thought they needed to know, then that person or those people are complicit in any abuse that Savile committed after he was discovered. They thought they owed a higher duty of care to the nation than to its children. Shame on them,
If I am correct - and I acknowledge that I just might not be - it might be the case that the British security services, driven by their usual Faustian thirst for all knowledge, made a devil's bargain with Jimmy Savile; typically one-sided, and one that endured for decades. To my mind, the speed with which Savile's reputation crumbled to dust after his death was a testament to the control he exerted over his victims; it was only after his death that they felt free to speak, and then they all spoke at once. I think it unlikely that the British security services will ever publish their files on Savile; perhaps because, unlike him, they still have something to lose.
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