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Iconic British television presenter Jimmy Savile shows off his OBE award after being honored at London's Buckingham Palace on March 21, 1972.
LONDON — Former BBC star Jimmy Savile was one of Britain’s "most prolific" sex offenders, committing at least 214 sex crimes against victims aged as young as 8, police said Friday.
Investigators released a report cataloging more than 50 years of rapes and indecent assaults. It accused the late television and radio host of using his celebrity status to gain access to vulnerable children in hospitals, nightclubs and even a hospice for the terminally ill.
Almost all the allegations have been made since Savile’s death in 2011, even though the offences date back as far as 1955.
The revelations have triggered a scandal in Britain and prompted a string of public inquiries into how some allegations were not properly investigated while Savile was alive.
"It is now clear that Savile was hiding in plain sight and using his celebrity status and fundraising activity to gain uncontrolled access to vulnerable people across six decades," the police-led report said. "For a variety of reasons the vast majority of his victims did not feel they could speak out and it’s apparent that some of the small number who did had their accounts dismissed by those in authority including parents and carers."
Savile, who raised an estimated $55 million for charity, achieved fame on BBC shows including "Top of the Pops" and "Jim'll Fix It." In 1990, he was given a knighthood by Britain's Queen Elizabeth and received a Papal Knighthood at the Vatican.
For 20 years, Jimmy Savile's children's show was a highlight of Saturday night family TV on the BBC. But now, British police say 300 people have come forward with claims that Savile abused them during his 60-year broadcasting career. NBC's Annabel Roberts reports.
The offences span 28 police forces across the U.K. and the scale of his abuse is so vast that the report included a map and an index of the alleged locations.
"He is without doubt one of the most prolific sex offenders we have ever come across and every number represents a victim that will never get justice now he is dead. But with this report we can at least show his victims that they have been taken seriously and their suffering has been recognized."
In total, more than 450 have people have come forward to police with allegations of abuse involving Savile. Most but not all victims have been interviewed and to date 214 criminal offences have been formally recorded. They included 34 rapes or serious sexual assaults, according to the report. The last incident recorded occurred in 2009. His victims ranged in age from 8 to 47.
The report concluded:
“The details provided by the victims of his abuse paint the picture of a mainly opportunistic individual who used his celebrity status as a powerful tool to coerce or control them, preying on the vulnerable or star-struck for his sexual gratification. Sadly, this type of behavior is not uncommon in any society - sexual abuse, whether in street gangs, though trafficking or within families and institutions, often involves the use of powerful coercion, intimidation and manipulation to exploit the vulnerable."
In a separate development, Britain’s most senior prosecutor apologized to some of the women abused by Savile, revealing that police missed three chances to take him to trial while he was alive.
Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions, said police had been "unjustifiably cautious" investigation four allegations involving girls as young as 14 who said they were abused by Savile in the 1970s.
He said he hoped the organization’s internal review would prove to be a "watershed" moment in the handling of child abuse cases.
In a statement, he said:
"Many people feel that for sexual offences, where it is 'one person's word against another's' and there is no or little scientific or other evidence to support the allegation, no prosecution should be brought. But this is to ignore the reality of many sexual offences which, by their nature, do not usually take place in front of witnesses and result in no meaningful scientific evidence. Taking a cautious approach to all complainants, on the ground that some might be making a false allegation of a sexual offence, can have the consequence that a prosecution for a true complaint may not take place."