I spent an unfortunate amount of time with Jimmy Savile before his vile crimes were exposed, says Rod McPhee | The Sun
I HAD the bad luck of spending an unfortunate amount of time with Jimmy Savile in the late Noughties, before his vile crimes had yet to be exposed.
By that point he was a has-been desperate for attention and I was a local newspaper reporter who he knew could help maintain his profile.
The last time I saw Savile was in a hotel bar of his home city of Leeds.
In a bizarre act that showed how sad he had become, he had gatecrashed a colleague’s leaving do, and he plonked himself down next to me.
So I took the opportunity to ask him about his 2000 interview with Louis Theroux.
Had he felt he had been somehow exposed by Louis, who had prised out of him the greatest hint to date that he might have been a paedophile?
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The response was a typically arrogant masterclass in deflection.
He said: “Look, son, I’ve sat down with the Yorkshire Ripper and had him try to mess with my head, do you really think that t**t Theroux stood a chance?”
Though he was fast becoming a national laughing stock, the then “Sir Jimmy” was still a bit of a local hero.
So as a twentysomething hack on the Leeds-based Yorkshire Evening Post I had to report on him.
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The most memorable meeting was when he was presenting a cheque to a local good cause, and they made the mistake of sending a woman along to collect it.
Still burned in my memory is this poor person as she extended her arm to have her hand shaken, only to have Savile clamp his wizened lips on to the back of it.
He started to drag his mouth over her skin as though he were performing a sex act on a more intimate part of her body.
He opened his mouth so wide it exposed his cigar-stained, medieval teeth. It was truly revolting.
But rather than immediately recoil and slap him round the face, she threw back her head and laughed.
Why? Because she didn’t know what else to do.
After all, he was a knight of the realm and, surely, he wouldn’t do something so brazen in public.
That was certainly my conclusion and why, rather than intervene or relay what I witnessed to anyone, I simply laughed, nervously.
I was doing what the rest of Britain’s showbiz and media had been doing for 50 years, turning a blind eye to what I was seeing.
What was particularly chilling about this memory of Savile was that it turned out a kiss on the back of a woman’s hand was a prelude to a far worse sexual assault.
As shown in The Reckoning, he would often start running his kisses up his victim’s arm, then the neck and then, if she had frozen in fear, a full snog on the lips, and more.
My working relationship with Savile, was not unique.
Every journalist on the paper had to deal with him.
They included the poor hack whose send-off he had arrived at uninvited.
He was such a self-glorifying narcissist that he would often phone us to try to get publicity for himself.
We spotted his voice, and the conversation would always go like this . . .
Savile: “Is that Rod McPhee.”
Savile: “Is that THE Rod McPhee”
Rod: “Yes, is that Jimmy Savile by any chance?”
Savile: “The very same, and I’ve got a little story for you about Sir Jimmy.”
Everyone in the newsroom got the same sorry spiel from him on a near-weekly basis.
No longer on TV or radio and largely ignored by national media, he resorted to staying in the limelight by any means.
That included visiting the local pizza restaurant every weekend to emerge from the kitchens with cakes he hand delivered to diners celebrating their birthdays.
Uncomfortably, he often served teenagers.
There was a silent army of people in Leeds who knew he was a monster.
No one acted on it because they knew no one would listen.
After his crimes were exposed I had to interview the Leeds-born author Louise Rennison, who recalled breaking her arm when she was a little girl in the seventies.
When the ambulance arrived her mother insisted she didn’t want her to go to the hospital where Savile was doing volunteer work.
Another mate of mine recalled how Savile spotted two road sweepers, one a youthful-looking teenage boy, outside his Leeds penthouse.
He immediately invited them up and was so keen to lure them inside he didn’t make them take off their mud-clad boots and they traipsed it all into the flat, which was full of cream carpets.
Initially they were so starry-eyed they happily sat down for a cuppa with the “down to earth” star.
Then, when it became obvious Savile’s attentions were honed on the young lad, his older workmate got them both out of there at lightning speed.
So many rumours and stories, just like these, floated around for decades.
And the new drama tries to outline how a nation could possibly be hoodwinked by someone so notorious and brazen.
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It seems impossible, but my former job meant I witnessed his lechery, narcissism and manipulation first hand.
And shamefully I was conned like the rest of the country.
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