My Jimmy Savile interview came back to haunt me

But, luckily, according to the Netflix documentary, my comment aroused the interest of an investigative journalist, Meirion Jones, whose aunt had run a girls’ approved school called Duncroft Youth Detention Centre. As a teenager, he’d often seen Savile there and thought it was odd that he was allowed to take these girls out on drives. Now he tried to track down some of them down.

At first, he was unsuccessful, but in 2000, the new networking site Friends Reunited started, and he found several Duncroft girls talking about their dealings with “JS”. Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror was also on Savile’s trail and found two girls who claimed to have had sex with him when they were 14, and were willing to talk about it. But they chickened out when told they would have to give evidence to the police, which meant the paper had to drop its exposé.

It did, however, hand its files to the police, who were now finally forced to take an interest. In 2009, they brought Savile in for questioning, but he denied everything and warned them that he was very litigious. After he died in 2011, some 2,000 people attended his funeral.

Savile was only finally exposed the following year, by which time his victims were queuing up to talk to the press, because you can’t libel the dead. The Independent had the bright idea of reprinting my 1990 interview. This time, I was told off by readers for letting Savile off the hook. If I knew he was a paedophile, why hadn’t I said so? But of course I didn’t know, and even to mention the rumour, as I did, was skirting quite close to the libel laws.

Before I was filmed for the new documentary, director Rowan Deacon said I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I said that being a journalist meant I was not in the business of non-disclosure, rather the reverse – and, anyway, what was I supposed to be not disclosing? There followed one of the most bizarre, circular conversations I have ever had in my life, but it turned out the great secret I wasn’t to disclose was that she was making the documentary for Netflix.

Anyway, it’s a good documentary, and goes some way to explaining how Jimmy Savile fooled so many people, including me. But the fact that he could have survived so long was, as another contributor, Andrew Neil, says on camera, a terrible failure by the British press.

‘Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story’ is streaming now on Netflix

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