- 28 hospitals release reports into abuse by Jimmy Savile of patients and staff
- Health secretary: "Savile was a callous, opportunistic, wicked predator"
- Reports detail rapes, abuses and claims of sexual behavior with dead bodies
- TV star used his popularity "to perpetrate and cover up his own evil acts," health secretary says
DJ and TV host Jimmy Savile was a larger-than-life personality. And a report released Thursday confirms he was also an extravagant sexual predator, using his access to hospitals as a volunteer porter and fundraiser to abuse victims aged from 5 to 75.
The review of Savile's behavior at 28 hospitals across the United Kingdom makes shocking reading, detailing a catalog of abuses against some of Britain's most vulnerable people over the course of decades.
Protected by his celebrity and exploiting a network of relationships he built in hospitals, he carried out rapes, other sexual abuse and displayed an unhealthy interest in dead bodies in a hospital mortuary.
Worse, the abuse went unchecked and unpunished, since the BBC entertainer died before the allegations against him were made public.
UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt apologized in the House of Commons on Thursday to all the victims abused by Savile while in the care of the National Health Service -- and said the system had let down those who were brave enough to raise the alarm but had their complaints ignored.
"Savile was a callous, opportunistic, wicked predator who abused and raped individuals, many of them patients and young people, who expected and had a right to expect to be safe. His actions span five decades -- from the 1960s to 2010," Hunt said.
"The family favorite loved by millions courted popularity and used it to perpetrate and cover up his own evil acts."
Victims who complained were "time and again" ignored, or if heard, little or no action was taken, Hunt said. "People and institutions turned a blind eye."
"As a nation at that time we held Savile in our affection as a somewhat eccentric national treasure with a strong commitment to charitable causes," Hunt said. "Today's reports show that in reality he was a sickening and prolific sexual abuser who repeatedly exploited the trust of a nation for his own vile purposes."
'Abused and raped patients without scruple'
For a generation who grew up watching Savile on TV's "Top of the Pops" and his children's program "Jim'll Fix It," the revelations that first emerged in 2012 were deeply disturbing.
Thursday's report into the full extent of his offending against children and adults, patients and staff, in 28 hospitals -- particularly Leeds Infirmary and Broadmoor Hospital, a high-security psychiatric institution -- will do nothing to reassure them.
The Leeds Infirmary report reveals a sexual predator who, while volunteering as a porter, "abused and raped patients without scruple," said Hunt.
Some 60 people reported abuse to the Leeds investigation, including a teenager who believed she was pregnant as a result of Savile's actions, he said.
"Two witnesses told the investigation Savile claimed to have had jewellery made from glass eyes taken from bodies in the mortuary," Hunt added, saying that other claims were too horrific to recount in parliament.
The report cites one witness who tells how Savile recounted making trips to the hospital mortuary, where he claimed to have manipulated bodies before rigor mortis set in, taken photographs and performed sex acts on them.
The report's authors say they have "no way of proving Savile's claim that he interfered with the bodies of deceased patients in the mortuary." However, it is established that he "publicly declared his interest in the dead," that he visited a friend who worked in the mortuary and that controls were lax for many years.
"In light of the claims about the glass eye jewellery and Savile's interference with the bodies of the deceased, it is evident his interest in the mortuary was not within accepted boundaries," it concludes.
The report from Broadmoor said 10 people had alleged they were sexually assaulted by Savile, plus a case of indecent exposure involving a minor. The investigation concluded that at least five people were sexually abused and a sixth was more likely than not to have been. Five other victims could not be contacted for detailed accounts.
The report gives an insight into how Savile was able to gain a position of influence at the secure institution that included giving him keys to wards and allowing him to watch female patients undress to bathe.
"Savile could be charming and persuasive, at least to some, but at the same time he was grandiose, narcissistic, arrogant and lacking any empathy," it states. "He was also very manipulative, and many staff were convinced that he had close connections in high places and had the power to have them dismissed."
Una O'Brien, permanent secretary of the Department of Health, said in a statement that "inadequate processes" had allowed Savile to gain the position of authority at Broadmoor that aided his abusive behavior.
"While much has changed in the intervening years we will leave no stone unturned to make sure such appalling actions can never be repeated; our thoughts today are with the people who suffered and continue to suffer from these terrible crimes," she said.
The UK's NSPCC children's charity said more must be done to safeguard children and ensure that an apparent "culture of turning a blind eye" to abuse is not repeated.
"To hear that some hospital staff may have actively facilitated Savile's abuse of children is sickening and takes the scandal of his crimes to yet another abhorrent level," said Peter Watt, national services director for the charity.
"Savile escaped justice because people didn't want to hear or believe what children were saying. Ministers now need to be satisfied that this could never happen again and that children and vulnerable adults in hospitals or any government facility are safe today."
Savile died in October 2011 at age 84, soon after being treated in a hospital for pneumonia. His long history of abuse emerged only a year later, thanks to a TV documentary by UK broadcaster ITV.
The BBC, where he worked as a radio DJ and TV presenter, has set up a separate inquiry into abuses he carried out on BBC premises.