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They just laughed at us: Savile’s 60 victims at Leeds Infirmary

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  • by Rob Parsons, Crime Correspondent
 

VICTIMS of Jimmy Savile at a Leeds hospital were disbelieved, belittled and “even laughed at” when they reported abuse to staff, according to a bombshell report released today into the shamed DJ’s activities.

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An inquiry into the 50 years of abuse by the presenter at Leeds General Infirmary revealed he had 60 victims at the hospital, aged between five and 75, as his regular presence gave him “something akin to invisibility”.

The family of the Leeds-born former Top of the Pops presenter today said they were “devastated” by the report’s findings and said it described someone they did not know or recognise.

Savile’s victims included a ten-year-old boy sexually assaulted by Savile while on a trolley waiting for an x-ray and a teenage girl recovering from abdominal surgery. He also forced his tongue into the mouth of a female doctor on a children’s ward in the 1990s, while grabbing her breast.

In one case, a young teenage victim in the 1960 was raped by Savile and was thought to be pregnant, with Savile as the potential father. The presenter then coached her to threaten suicide should staff refuse her request for an abortion.

Nine of the victims, including six patients and three employees, told hospital staff of the abuse, but received an “inadequate professional response”, investigators said.

The report’s author, former senior NHS official Dr Susan Proctor, said: “For the victims who disclosed to staff what happened to them, not being believed, or being belittled, even laughed at, served only to compound their feelings of hurt and betrayal.

“With hindsight, some victims have reflected that the staff they disclosed their abuse to just did not know what to do in response.

“This may be true, but it is unacceptable and, certainly in a hierarchical structure, the first response to such disclosure would have been to tell someone in a more senior position.”

The review also revealed:

• Three people, who may have been hospital employees, helped Savile in arranging his abuse in the 1960s.

• Victims tended to keep silent because they felt “they had brought it on themselves” and would not be believed because of Savile’s fame.

• He boasted of having jewellery made from the glass eyes of dead patients taken from the mortuary and described performing sex acts on the bodies.

• Savile was seen as a “menacing presence” by some at the hospital, with a former chief executive describing him as “fearful”.

• The Leeds-born DJ was open about his interest in young girls but “time and time again people did not make the connection” that this was out of the ordinary

• Savile often accompanied doctors and nurses as they visited patients on ward rounds, despite sensitive and confidential information being discussed.

The report concluded: “For someone like Savile, the Infirmary at Leeds in the 1960s and 1970s was an ideal setting in which to indulge his unacceptable, and at times criminal, sexual activity.

“At the same time he was able to enhance his celebrity and charity fundraising reputation, a combination which allowed him further and sustained access to vulnerable people.

“By the 1980s and 1990s, he was regarded by many as ‘part of the furniture’ and his presence was seen to be of little significance to any of those in authority.

“This gave him something akin to invisibility in the hospital, which enabled his abusive behaviour to continue unseen for years.”

It added that Savile did “not particularly hide his behaviour” and was “audacious” in his harrassment and abuse, but that “we should not minimise the privilege that hindsight offer us”.

“It is one thing to observe behaviour that can best be described as eccentric or odd, and then to make an assumption that oddness is an indicator of sexual offending.”

In a statement released this morning, Dr Proctor, a former Diocesan Secretary of Ripon and Leeds, said “organisational failures” over the years at the hospital “enabled Savile to continue unchallenged in the hospital”.

She said: “These included weak internal controls in the standards of support services and in access to patient areas, weak systems to safeguard patients on wards, poorly understood and poorly used systems for patients or staff to raise concerns or complain, and leadership that lacked curiosity about and visibility in the infirmary.

“These factors provided a background for someone as manipulative as Savile to thrive, and to continue his abusive behavior unchecked for years.”

Savile’s relatives today said that the findings in the investigation were ‘devastating’ and described a person they did not know or recognise.

A statement released through the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post said: “We are truly devastated by this report and its findings. It is hard to believe the extent of what has happened.

“It seems that the Jimmy Savile we knew, and the one the public knew, is a completely different person to the one described in this report.

“Our thoughts are with the victims.”

Family and friends are said to be personally shattered by the events since October 2012, when the scandal broke, a year after the star’s death.

He was found dead in his Roundhay flat in October 2011, two days before his 85th birthday.

A dozen volunteers from charity Victim Support helped oversee the NHS report into his abuse at Leeds hospitals, as well as providing support to victims.

They told of their fears that the revelations in today’s report may set the victims back in the progress they have made, and that victims’ families also needed support after unwittingly leaving their children in Savile’s hands.

As well as the report into Savile’s activities at Leeds hospitals, a publication setting out the extent of his activities at Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire was also due to come out today. The report into Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire has been shelved until later in the year.

The total number of hospitals being investigated is 32 and reports for all the trusts involved were expected to be published this morning.

They now include Seacroft in Leeds, Pinderfields in Wakefield, the former De La Pole hospital in Hull, the former Whitby Memorial Hospital, Dewsbury and District Hospital and High Royds Hospital, the former psychiatric hospital at Menston, near Leeds.

The probe in Leeds is being chaired by Prof Sue Proctor, Diocesan Secretary of Ripon and Leeds, and led by Ray Galloway, a former detective superintendent with North Yorkshire Police who investigated the disappearance of York chef Claudia Lawrence.

Officials began the investigations around the country after the disclosure of information by the Metropolitan Police to the Department of Health about Savile’s activities in 2012.

It was reported earlier this year that another review, commissioned by the BBC, into how Savile carried out a campaign of abuse over decades at the Corporation, will not be published until after Dave Lee Travis’s forthcoming trial.

Savile, who was noted in his lifetime for his fundraising work for charities and hospitals, died in October 2011, prompting hundreds of people to come forward stating they were abused by the celebrity at the height of his fame.

In January 2013, the Met and the children’s charity, the NSPCC, published the findings of the inquiry into claims of abuse by Savile in a report titled Giving Victims a Voice.

Police said they had recorded 214 crimes in 28 police force areas against Savile, including 34 allegations of rape.

Earlier this month a report by the NSPCC said Savile abused at least 500 victims, including some as young as two.

Lesley McLean, Victim Support’s Divisional Manager for West Yorkshire, said volunteers with expertise in helping victims of sexual violence supported those who fell prey to Savile.

She said: “Right at the beginning when the three investigations were first started, the Leeds team approached us to ask if we would be able to support.

“Right from the very beginning the team really wanted to make sure they were making this process as easy for the victims as possible and that they were supported through the process.

“We have got some victims we are still supporting now. The publicity of the report is bringing things back for people, knowing the information is out there.

“The report could bring new victims forward or bring those back to us who thought they were OK but with the extra media attention now feel they need support.

“It is quite natural for the media to show a clip of Jimmy Savile or put his picture in the newspaper but seeing those pictures again is quite difficult for victims because he was such a larger than life character. Seeing the face of the man who abused you in the media is quite difficult to deal with.”

Ms McLean said the scale of the abuse shocked those involved in the investigation.

She said: “We were beginning to get a sense of that from the media at the time, it seemed things were coming out daily, not just about Jimmy Savile.

“It is fair to say the sheer scale of the abuse Jimmy Savile was involved in is quite overwhelming.

“Most people felt they wouldn’t be believed and particularly if they were a child at the time, as most of them were.

“The report will be difficult for people to hear. We are hoping that once one person speaks out it can help make it easier for other people to speak out.

“Some people have gone onto have quite chaotic lifestyles, as a result of some of the things they have been through. They might have had a chaotic lifestyle anyway but this has not helped.

“There are others who have kept their heads down and tried to get on with a normal life, but it has been eating away inside of them.

“There were those that think at the time it was part of the culture and nothing could have stopped it but there are others who feel people should have been more aware and should have spoken out at the time.”

Anyone who believes they were a victim of Savile or any other form of sexual abuse should call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 or Victim Support on 0300 303 1971.

 

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