‘Savile claims are sad in so many ways ...’

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SAD to see the revelations of Sir Jimmy Savile coming out now and not sooner. Sad that he isn’t alive to defend himself. Sad that it’s taken all these years for six women who have suffered alleged sexual abuse by Savile to break their silence.

Sad that they weren’t taken seriously at the time and now one by one they have found the courage to come forward. Sad that this can never go to court. Sad that all those who strongly suspected his predeliction for young girls said nothing.

Former Poundworld shop, Waterloo Place, Sunderland.

Former Poundworld shop, Waterloo Place, Sunderland.

Why have the women come forward now – one by one coming out of the woodwork? What do they hope to achieve? Perhaps having a voice at last?

There have been rumours for years. There was no definite proof. People were scared and as Paul Gambaccini, another former Radio 1 DJ said, his late colleague was skilled at playing the media. “On one occasion…he was called and he said, ‘Well you could run that story but if you do there goes the funds that come into Stoke Mandeville – do you want to be responsible for drying up their charity donations?’ And they backed down.

It comes out when he’s dead because Jimmy Savile had an imperial personality in showbusiness. You just didn’t mess with Jim. He was the governor because after all he had been the first great club DJ, he had been the originator of Top Of The Pops presentation and you just let him have his turf.”

So, nearly a year after his death at the age of 84, these women I watched tell their stories on ITV’s documentary, The Other Side Of Jimmy Savile this week, are, in my book, telling the truth that they were sexually assaulted by the presenter of Top Of The Pops and Jim’ll Fix It when they were under 16.

One claims he raped her, another says she was asked to perform a sex act on him and others say they were groomed and indecently assaulted by him.

One said she has spoken out only now following his death because she was too scared while he was alive. Savile’s relatives and friends have protested that it is unfair to make the claims when he cannot answer back.

But ChildLine founder Esther Rantzen, who was Savile’s contemporary at the BBC when he was at the height of his fame, believes their testimonies.

I listened to her damning denouncement of the pop icon.

It was a moving mixture of conviction and grief etched in Esther’s face over what she now believes: “the abuse of power was as great as the sexual abuse.”

The women’s stories tallied, one corroborated another without sensationalism and spoke of the abuse which led Esther to say: “Before I watched these I had decided I would not make up my mind because he’s not here to defend himself – it seems utterly unfair. I’m afraid the jury isn’t out any more and what upsets me so much is that not one of these children could ask for help.

“It’s the adult world that created this mythical figure who was above criticism, who was above blame. I feel that we in television…in some way colluded with him as a child abuser – because I now believe that’s what he was.

“We made him into the Jimmy Savile who was untouchable, who nobody could criticise. Everybody knew of the good that Jimmy did. These children were powerless.”

They had no voice against someone considered a national treasure, who was a knight of the realm, boasted of his connections with our Royalty – larks with the Queen, mentoring Prince Charles after his marriage breakdown, friendship with The Beatles and Princess Diana, exchanging gifts with Pope John Paul II, addressing the Israeli cabinet and spending 13 consecutive Christmases with Margaret and Denis Thatcher at Chequers.

None of these boasts was ever denied by the other parties.

I felt sick hearing one woman in the programme say: “The first time something happened he actually got me into an alcove in the dressing room and he pushed me back against the wall and then it was a hand up the skirt and touching me,” She was 15 when she first met him. When she was 16 one of these fumbles turned into full sex.

“He promised me he wasn’t going all the way but he did. There was no foreplay, no romance, no taking off clothes. I’m sure it’s why he always wore a shell suit so he could just whip his elastic shell suit bottoms down very quickly. I remember it being a struggle, with me trying to push him off and him pinning me down with his body weight.”

And I thought of the day 12 years ago when a tormented 25-year-old Sunderland woman told me how she was raped at eight in Witherwack House, this city’s most shameful monument to instutionalised child abuse.

The home was demolished after a Crown Court trial in 1993 of three junior staff members – which convicted Kevin Roffe and Glynis Tamblin, and acquitted Alan Dingwall.

Years later the Echo called for a re-opening of the inquiry into abuse by staff at the children’s home.

This woman I will never forget – a nervous and emotional wreck who suffered panic attacks and couldn’t care for her six year-old daughter who relived her rape ordeal in 1980. In an open letter to every Echo reader in 1997, she wrote this: “The only way that I can describe how I feel to you is that I’m isolated within myself as well as not having my own little notch in your society.

“I see the world with different eyes and views to you. All I see is hurt and cruelty. I was raped once by a member of staff but continually sexually harrassed and abused and continually physically and mentally abused every day. And I’ve continued living until now with the knowledge that this was a ‘normal’ way of life to me (and scores of others).

“Now though, I feel angry and degraded and also violated in every way. I don’t want revenge. I just want some kind of justice to enable other kids never to be frightened to tell someone if they’re abused or see others kids going through it. This has to be stopped now.”

Heart rending to hear and unforgettable. She was damaged for life, just as all victims of abuse are. Three years after that woman told me her story a judge ruled that it would be wrong to try ex-social workers for alleged cruelty so many years later.

Thankfully, today we have moved on and a different climate prevails.

This week it emerged that two police forces had investigated Savile – Jersey Police about alleged abuse in a children’s home and Surrey Police about an alleged indecent assault at a children’s home in Staines during the 1970s, but no charges were ever brought. Both police forces decided there was “insufficient evidence” to proceed.

Whether or not you think there’s a lot more evidence now, sadly Savile is no longer here to answer his alleged victims’ claims of violation and so we are left to draw our own conclusion as this can never come to one.

This monstrous act is beyond comprehension

WHAT is happening in our world with parents killing their children and then taking their own life?

 It’s happening increasingly often and this latest horrific tragedy of Mick Pedersen, the former Household Cavalryman, repeatedly stabbing his two young children to death then killing himself, seems to be another terrible case of “If I can’t have them, no one will”.

This monstrous, vile act was premeditated. A friend of the ex-Queen’s guardsman has claimed this tormented man was taking revenge on his estranged wife when he killed son Ben, seven, and daugter Freya six.

Apparently he had earlier told him: “She’ll pay for this.” The businessman who says he made this chilling threat, has asked not to be named and said: “Those words still send a shiver down my spine in the light of what has happened.”

Pedersen was on bail for assault at the time of the killings. He was accused of breaking his wife Erica’s shoulder in two places in a violent outburst shortly before they split up a month ago.

Friends have said Erica had suffered years of abuse during their 10-year marriage and was planning to divorce him because of his behaviour.

What this poor woman could never have envisaged was that he would take her children from her.

Not only has this destroyed her life but has shattered her belief and trust for all time. How chilling to think that, as another friend said: “His last shred of control over Erica was the children – so he took them from her.”

It is truly terrifying that what was unheard of in our society – people killing their own flesh and blood – is now becoming more common.

What utter devastation for any mother. Of course she can’t bear to even look at pictures of the children.

Taking your own life is one thing and so often the coward’s way out.

But to take the lives of innocents you gave life, is beyond my comprehension, no matter how tormented the soul.

Bargain basement spell check

HERE’s a sight that stopped me in my tracks – signs on the now empty 99p shop on the corner of Waterloo Place, proclaiming “BARGIN.”

 What impression does that give to would-be businesses looking to come to Sunderland? Who is to blame for allowing this?

 Those with brains as vacant as the premises ...

The Axe: The Colling hitlist

LET the axe fall on Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem party’s most senior female MP, backing a ban on Page 3 topless pictures and claiming it has an injurious effect – on women.

She insisted the newspaper feature could not be justified as harmless fun and said the sight of topless models in newspapers was part of a culture of the sexualisation of women which influences public attitudes and domestic abuse.

A petition, set up by Lucy Holmes and entitled Take the bare boobs out of The Sun, has attracted more than 30,000 signatures.

But it is a quantam leap to suggest that they incite men to abuse women. I don’t believe they do.

There will always be women who want to flaunt themselves in this way for fame and money but such tittilation is not the trigger for men to turn violent. And how many women are abused by men in country’s where they have to keep their bodies covered up?

Banning Page 3 girls is barmy when you can see topless women in so many mags and on the internet. They are ogled and never fail to raise a titter with the cerebal comments attributed to them like curvaceous Rosie, 21, who the other day reckoned Ed Milliband was daring to steal the Tories “One Nation” mantra, coined by PM Benjmin Disraeli. She said: “Ed’s speech reminded me of another Disraeli quip, ‘Man is never so manly as when he feels deeply, acts boldly and expresses himself with frankness and fervour.”

Having these girls in her sights is a waste of Mrs Featherstone’s time and rather than bolster the concerns for domestic violence, takes away from what is so very serious an issue. She is way off beam blaming Page 3 lovelies for provoking men to be perpetrators.