London: For decades, Jimmy Savile was a fixture on British television, an eccentric, aggressively jocular host of children`s shows and a tireless charity fundraiser. When he died last year at 84 -- by then knighted as Sir Jimmy -- he drew tributes from Prince Charles and thousands of fans.
Now several women have come forward to claim "Sir Jimmy" was also a sexual predator who abused underage girls.
The allegations have set off ripples of shock, but not of surprise. There had, colleagues said, long been rumours. The main question being asked now is: Why did no one do anything?
"Maybe it was just the fact that Jimmy knew everybody," Esther Rantzen, a former BBC journalist and founder of the ChildLine child-protection charity, told Channel 4 news. "We made him into the Jimmy Savile who was untouchable, who nobody could criticise."
Child protection advocates say the case fits a pattern seen in the response to the child-molesting Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and in the English town of Rochdale, where a gang of men groomed vulnerable young girls for sex. Authorities in both places have been criticised for failing to act on claims of abuse.
The allegations against Savile are made in a documentary, "Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile," to be shown Wednesday on Britain`s ITV channel.
The program alleges that Savile abused girls in his Rolls-Royce, in a mobile home and at BBC`s television headquarters. It includes interviews with a woman who says Savile sexually assaulted her while she was a student at the Duncroft special-needs school near London, and with a former BBC staff member who says she saw the entertainer indecently assaulting a 14-year-old girl.
The BBC said no one had made any allegations against Savile while he worked there.
"The BBC has conducted extensive searches of its files to establish whether there is any record of misconduct or allegations of misconduct by Sir Jimmy Savile during his time at the BBC. No such evidence has been found," it said in a statement.
Savile`s family has condemned the vilification of a man who is not alive to defend himself.