Savile’s power as secret king of Broadmoor (27.10.13)
The Sunday Times, 27th October 2013
by James Gillespie
Jimmy Savile was given “the keys to Broadmoor” by politicians and civil servants despite high-level concerns about his “extraordinary” role and “strange” personality.
Savile, one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders, was appointed to a taskforce to run Broadmoor in 1988 — five years after fears had first been expressed in Whitehall about his “sexual promiscuity”.
One manager, who had close links to Broadmoor at the time, said: “Savile was a national entertainer and was in charge of this psychiatric unit. I thought it was extraordinary, but the civil servants and the politicians apparently thought he was the bee’s knees.”
A Sunday Times investigation has discovered that Savile’s influence extended far further than previously thought and included him being given a role choosing managers to run the hospital after the taskforce had finished its work. Civil servants also put Savile in charge of a committee which examined the welfare of patients, with the new management being given no say in his appointment.
A female civil servant at the health department had complained to her boss that Savile had kissed her on the mouth before a meeting between him and Edwina Currie, then a junior health minister, yet nothing was done.
Savile’s position at Broadmoor increased his opportunities to carry out his campaign of sexual abuse across as many as 30 hospitals in the UK.
The Broadmoor taskforce, replacing the previous suspended management, was set up in August 1988. It included Savile, who was “devoting his considerable talents to ensuring that the hospital functions smoothly,” the Earl of Dundee told the House of Lords.
No one questioned why the “considerable talents” of a disc jockey and presenter of the BBC’s Top of the Pops should equip him to run a secure psychiatric institution.
Alan Franey, a taskforce member and later Broadmoor’s general manager, said: “Savile was appointed to the taskforce by Edwina Currie, but it would have been on the recommendation of civil servants. It was a bit odd.”
Currie disagrees. “It did not seem odd at all. You can compare it with Lord Longford swanning around making friends with prisoners like Myra Hindley [the Moors murderer] and Princess Di going into these places,” she said.
The recommendation that Savile sit on the taskforce came from Cliff Graham, undersecretary at the Department of Health and an advocate for NHS change. He wanted the secure psychiatric hospitals — Broadmoor, Rampton, Park Lane and Moss Side — brought under the control of a new Special Hospitals Service Authority (SHSA).
Franey was approached about joining the taskforce. “I had an unusual meeting in the Athenaeum Club in London [Jimmy Savile and Cliff Graham were present] . . . and I was persuaded that a move to Broadmoor would be a good career step,” he said.
Franey, now a Conservative councillor on Welwyn Hatfield borough council, had met Savile previously at Leeds General Infirmary but said the London meeting, also attended by a trustee of Savile’s Stoke Mandeville Hospital trust, seemed to be an opportunity for Savile to approve his selection for the taskforce.
Another who would play a role at Broadmoor was also “run past” Savile. The late David Edmond, the first chairman of the SHSA, recalled in a book: “I [was] asked to a strange meeting at Stoke Mandeville Hospital with Cliff Graham, Jimmy Savile, a retired Department of Health senior civil servant and other department officials . . . I suspect Cliff Graham was using it to check out relationships.”
Managers at Broadmoor were left in no doubt that Savile’s role was not to be questioned. One said: “We were told he was a valuable asset, that he was well thought of in high circles in the Department of Health and it was important we got on good terms and that we cultivated what he had to offer. Cliff Graham quite explicitly told me those things and said much the same to David Edmond.”
Franey agrees that Graham was a strong advocate of Savile. “Savile’s connections were significant. Everyone knew of the close friendship between Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, and Savile, whom she regularly invited to Chequers,” Franey said.
There is no suggestion that Graham, who died in 1994 aged 57, nor any of the civil servants or politicians had any knowledge of Savile’s criminal activities. But some people did know, or at least suspected what was going on. Broadmoor staff were incredulous when they heard Savile had been put in charge.
“The lunatics have taken over the asylum” was the feeling among staff, said Richard Harrison, a psychiatric nurse at Broadmoor for 30 years from 1974: “I considered him, as many of my colleagues did, as a man with a severe personality disorder and a liking for children.”
Bob Allen, a former nurse, said he saw Savile take a girl who looked 14 or 15 years old into his house. When he reported it, his supervisor said: “No one appears to be interested.”
Currie believes Savile blackmailed staff to persuade the Prison Officers’ Association, which represented most of the Broadmoor nurses, to call off a strike. His methods had included “going into the office, checking employment records of staff he was targeting and establishing that some of them were up to no good, such as claiming overtime to the tune of £800 a week,” she said.
“He checked accommodation records and found some people occupying them were nothing to do with the hospital but were relatives of staff. So I have not the least doubt that he used a degree of arm-twisting and blackmail to get the staff to do what he wanted. That also suggests to my suspicious mind a modus operandi for other places.”
Whitehall was already aware of unsavoury aspects of Savile’s character. Robert Armstrong, chairman of the honours committee, first vetoed Thatcher’s request that Savile be knighted in 1983, expressing doubts about the “strange and complex” man. “Fears have been expressed that Mr Savile might not be able to refrain from exploiting a knighthood in a way which brought the honours system into disrepute,” Armstrong told Thatcher.
When the taskforce was wound down and the SHSA took control, civil servants pushed Savile into another position as chairman of the new hospital advisory committee, Franey recalled: “The SHSA was not given an option.”