British Entertainer, DJ Accused Of Sexual Assaults

The BBC is apologizing to women who claim they were sexually abused decades ago by one of the broadcaster's top entertainers. Jimmy Savile had been knighted for his charity work in 1990. He died last year. The number of women alleging abuse could be more than two dozen and the scandal has dominated Britain's media.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

For six decades, the DJ and entertainer Jimmy Savile was a fixture on British radio and television. His charity work brought him a knighthood and friends in high places, including the late Princess Diana. But now, nearly a year after Savile's death, a number of women claim he sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers. Vicki Barker reports from London.

(SOUNDBITE OF "TOP OF THE POPS" THEME MUSIC)

VICKI BARKER, BYLINE: The lanky, flaxen-haired host of "Top of the Pops" and other entertainment programs, Jimmy Savile frequently invited teenage girls onto the stage. This 1968 footage was posted on YouTube.

(SOUNDBITE OF "TOP OF THE POPS" YOUTUBE VIDEO)

JIMMY SAVILE: You know, if you're shy - this one. This one's shy? You're not shy. Say hello to your mum.

UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: Hello, mum.

(LAUGHTER)

SAVILE: So you want to say hello to your mum...

BARKER: What British viewers learned last week, is what allegedly went on backstage - in Savile's BBC dressing room, in BBC-chauffeured cars, and in his home. Katrina Rose told the BBC this week, she was 14 in 1975, when the DJ gave her a tour of his studio, then took her to his home and sexually assaulted her.

KATRINA ROSE: I froze. I had - just didn't know what to do; did not know what was happening. I was quite a naive 14-year-old.

BARKER: Yet it wasn't the BBC, but a rival broadcaster that actually broke the story last week. In a detailed documentary, five women described being groped, assaulted, and in several cases raped; the youngest, at 13. A BBC report raising the same allegations was shelved early this year. The show's producer insists the decision was made for sound editorial reasons, and not because the BBC was airing several tribute programs to Savile, at the time. The head of the BBC, George Entwistle, has apologized.

GEORGE ENTWISTLE: The women involved here, have gone through something awful - and something I deeply regret that they should have to go through.

BARKER: The victim Katrina Rose wants the BBC to investigate who knew about Savile, and failed to report him.

ROSE: They might not have realized the extent of it. They might not have realized that there were girls out there, being raped. But they had to have known that this man liked young girls just a bit too much.

BARKER: The BBC says any internal inquiry will only come after the criminal investigation. Scotland Yard says it is now following 120 leads involving dozens of women, describing assaults as far back as 1959. Commander Peter Spindler says he believes them.

PETER SPINDLER: At this stage, it's quite clear - from what women are telling us - that Savile was a predatory sex offender.

BARKER: Prime Minister David Cameron has said he'll see if Savile can be posthumously stripped of his knighthood. Tomorrow, the undertakers who handled Savile's burial, say they'll dismantle the elaborate headstone above his grave, with its epitaph composed by the dead man himself: It was good while it lasted.

For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.

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