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Hospital turned blind eye to Savile’s reign of abuse

Disgraced TV star had his own room at Stoke Mandeville hospital in the UK

Image Credit: AP
This is a March 25, 2008 file photo of Sir Jimmy Savile. For decades, Jimmy Savile was a fixture on British television — an eccentric, aggressively jocular host of children's shows and a tireless charity fundraiser.
Gulf News

London: The NHS hospital where Jimmy Savile freely abused sick and disabled child patients knew 30 years ago he was a threat, it was claimed.

Yet Stoke Mandeville chiefs allowed the predatory paedophile to boast he had his own bedroom at the Buckinghamshire hospital and had ‘lived’ there for two decades.

Nurses even resorted to warning youngsters to “pretend to be asleep” when the warped Jim’ll Fix It star was approaching their wards, it was alleged. Yet while the BBC has issued a grovelling apology to the late presenter’s many victims, NHS chiefs are refusing to say sorry. They have not even started an investigation into allegations he was permitted to molest children on their wards.

Teenagers in wheelchairs and others recovering from cancer were among those allegedly attacked by the BBC DJ during his time volunteering as a hospital porter.

One patient claimed he was fondled in Savile’s Rolls-Royce at a Stoke Mandeville fundraiser when he was just nine, and two women said Savile had forcibly kissed them when they were in their early teens.

There are suspicions a blind eye was turned to child abuse because Savile was able to raise millions of pounds for the hospital.

Stoke Mandeville - a spinal injuries specialist centre in aid of which Savile frequently ran marathons - insisted it had “no record” of complaints about him.

But a retired NHS worker poured scorn on this claim, telling the Daily Mail: “To my knowledge, the juniors and new staff were advised to be careful in their contact with him. That was not said officially, maybe because he brought in such a lot of publicity and funds. There was no control over his comings and goings, he would just turn up. He had free run of the place.

“The youngest girls at Stoke Mandeville in the 1970s soon learned to avoid close contact with him.”

Savile has been branded a “predatory sex offender” who went on a four-decade rampage of child abuse. Police are pursuing 120 potential leads and say his victims were girls and boys from all over the country.

During his reign of abuse, Savile was allowed to groom, grope and rape youngsters as young as 13 despite five police forces investigating him.

But it now seems clear that his volunteering as a hospital porter was a devious ruse to allow him to stalk sick and disabled children and sexually assault them.

One former patient, Laura, 28, of Evesham, Worcestershire, told a BBC 5 Live phone-in yesterday how Savile would undertake “ward rounds”.

She said: “I just remember people saying, ‘I wonder which one of us would be the chosen one to go to his ‘little room’?”

“I remember the nurses tucking me in saying, ‘The best thing you can do is stay in bed, don’t ask to be put in your wheelchair today and pretend to be asleep.’”

Stoke Mandeville is credited as the birthplace of the Paralympics movement and one of the official mascots for the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics was called Mandeville.

The BBC DJ helped raise millions for the hospital, and a cafe there is even named ‘Jimmy’s’ after him.

In 1992, he told an American TV interviewer he first visited Stoke Mandeville in the early 1970s “to give away some prizes”, and bragged: “I went back the following week and the following week. Then they said - because they had realised I might be useful to them - they said, “How about we give you a room so when you come here, you can stay?” I said, “Where’s the room?” They said, “In the nurses’ home”, and I said, “You’re on, you’re on”.

“And I have lived in a room 12ft long and 8ft wide for the last 24 years in the nurses’ home.’

Another former Stoke Mandeville patient said: “One of the staff said they wouldn’t let him go around the wards without a minder. I asked why. They said, “Because of the children’s ward, that’s why.’”

Savile also allegedly once glanced at the bedside TVs for patients and remarked: “Can you get the porn?” adding he had ‘told management’ patients should be able “to get the porn”.

Savile even seems to have been allowed to take a young cancer patient to his BBC dressing room after inviting her to watch Jim’ll Fix It being filmed in the late 1980s.

A magazine journalist recalled an extraordinary occasion when the girl, aged about 14, who was bald after receiving treatment, lay ‘moaning’ on a mattress next to Savile as he gave an interview. Savile ordered the journalist to “ignore” the girl and concentrate on the interview.

Tory MP Rob Wilson said: “The scale of the allegations against Sir Jimmy Savile is quite staggering. I do not think what is alleged to have happened at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to be acceptable in a decent society.

“I have written to the chief executive of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust today to request a full inquiry into what happened, what was known at the time, what records were kept and what is known now.

“If it is true, as alleged by ex-staff, that they were warned about Savile by hospital managers, they are complicit in the most disturbing of crimes. For the sake of the hospital’s reputation, I urge the Trust not to drag its feet and act quickly. We now need openness and transparency, not the establishment closing ranks.”

Leeds General Infirmary, where Savile volunteered as a porter as well, also declined to apologise to his victims yesterday.

The BBC star pretended to offer “reassurance” to children weak from operations there, but then groped them instead, it was claimed.

Last night Buckinghamshire health chiefs issued a statement saying: “We are shocked to hear of the serious allegations about Jimmy Savile.

“At this stage in the proceedings it would not be appropriate for us to conduct our own internal investigation, however we have been contacted by the police this week and are supporting them fully with their enquiries. If their findings suggest that we do need to take further action then we will do so.”

A Stoke Mandeville spokesman added: “We can confirm that the police have contacted us and we are co-operating with them fully.”

Leeds General Infirmary said: “We are shocked at the nature and extent of the very serious allegations. We have made contact with the police and they will be meeting with us to discuss their investigation.”