There was nothing new in this ITV documentary, but it did explain why Jimmy Savile’s methods were those of a textbook abuserSavile: Portrait of a Predator, review – this case will always have the power to shock
The BBC marked the 10th anniversary of Jimmy Savile’s death by commissioning a drama about him, starring the comic actor Steve Coogan. Why they would do this is beyond me. It is, to put it politely, in questionable taste. The BBC, of course, not only provided the environment for Savile’s crimes by letting him run Top of the Pops as his personal playground, but covered them up a year after his death by shelving a Newsnight investigation into the abuse.
ITV has decided to revisit the story in documentary form. Savile: Portrait of a Predator offered nothing by way of new information – the crimes are well-documented, and almost everyone here had told their story before. Was there any purpose in going over old ground?
The people involved in the film would say that there was usefulness in the programme as a reminder that while Savile’s eccentric person was unique, his predatory behaviour was not.
The most valuable contributions throughout were from Gary Pankhurst, formerly a detective on Operation Yewtree. He pointed to textbook actions by Savile to select his victims.
At Stoke Mandeville, Savile approached a young patient named Pauline and introduced himself. Later he stood behind her wheelchair and rested his hands on her shoulders. “It was comforting. I thought, ‘How kind’,” she recalled. But as Pankhurst explained, it is common for abusers to use non-intimate contact at first to gauge someone’s reaction. Not long afterwards, Savile got Pauline in a room and sexually assaulted her.
Familiar though it may be from news reports, it was still deeply shocking to watch the Top of the Pops footage of Savile groping girls.
The film argued that Savile didn’t take advantage of his position, whether at the BBC or at Stoke Mandeville, as an opportunity to offend – rather, he deliberately manoeuvred himself into those positions because they provided so much opportunity. He wheedled his way into the affections of the Establishment, including the Prince and Princess of Wales and Baroness Thatcher, to make himself untouchable. “He was an abuser first, a celebrity second,” said Pankhurst.
This should be the last word on him. But that BBC drama is yet to come…