(Reuters) – One-time British pop star Gary Glitter was arrested on Sunday as part of an investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, the BBC said.
It was the first arrest to be reported in a scandal that has already damaged the reputation of the publicly-funded BBC and the legacy of Savile, a former DJ who was one of the broadcaster’s top show hosts and a dedicated charity fundraiser.
The head of the BBC’s governing body said on Sunday the broadcaster’s reputation was on the line, and promised to get to the bottom of the scandal.
A police statement said a man in his 60s had been picked up just after 7 am (0700 GMT) on suspicion of sexual offences in the investigation into “Savile and others”. The statement did not name the man and a spokesman declined further comment.
The BBC and Sky News identified the man picked up from his London home as Glitter, a 68-year-old who was popular as a glam-rock singer in the 1970s. Footage on both broadcasters showed Glitter, who was not handcuffed, leaving an apartment in central London and being driven away.
Glitter, born Paul Gadd, shot to fame in the early 1970s with the hit “Rock and Roll”. He has long been dogged by child sex accusations. He was convicted of abusing two girls in Vietnam in 2006 and has been jailed in that country.
Allegations that Savile sexually abused young girls for decades first emerged in an expose on the British TV channel ITV. Since then, police say some 300 victims had come forward.
The victims’ allegations include claims from one woman that she had seen Glitter having sex with an underage girl in Savile’s BBC dressing room while Savile abused another girl.
The scandal has raised troubling questions about the BBC’s management and its workplace culture in the past. Revelations that an investigation by Newsnight, the BBC’s flagship TV news show, was shelved last December led to claims bosses at the broadcaster knew about the allegations but kept quiet.
“Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing? Did some turn a blind eye to criminality?” asked Chris Patten, chairman of the BBC Trust which oversees the broadcaster, writing in the Mail on Sunday.
The Sunday Times said the office of former BBC director Mark Thompson was alerted about the allegations twice, in May and September. Thompson is poised to take over as chief executive of the New York Times, and the Sunday Times quoted his spokesman as saying Thompson had not been told about the allegations on either occasion.
Thompson has told Reuters that he did not know about the nature of the investigation by the Newsnight program into Savile, and had no involvement in the decision to axe the report.
The BBC said on its website on Sunday that “Thompson has said the first time he had been made aware of claims that Savile had committed serious crimes and that some had taken place while the entertainer was working at the BBC was after he stepped down as director general”.
The broadcaster has announced two investigations as a result of the scandal, and Patten promised full cooperation.
“The BBC’s reputation is on the line,” he wrote. “The BBC must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible.”
When Savile died in October last year aged 84, his gold coffin went on public display and he was lauded as a “national treasure” who had raised millions of pounds for good causes.
A year later, police describe him as “undoubtedly” one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders, and the Vatican said a papal knighthood given to Savile decades ago for his charity work “should not have been bestowed”.
Savile’s family said it was in despair over the allegations and offered its “deepest sympathy” to abuse victims. It also said it had decided to remove the headstone on Savile’s grave and destroy it to avoid it becoming a target for vandals.
(Editing by Myra MacDonald)
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