Chris Carson, Reporter
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Charity worker reveals how disgraced star wanted to buy former girls’ school as a retreat for disadvantaged youngsters
Disgraced TV presenter Sir Jimmy Savile planned to open a holiday home for needy children near Axminster at the height of his fame, it has been revealed.
The alleged child sex abuser made several trips to the town in a bid to set up a trust to buy the former Shute School for Girls, shortly after it closed in 1974.
The late DJ wanted to use the building to provide short-stay accommodation to give deprived children and their families a countryside break.
This week a leading Axminster charity worker of the time, who asked not to be named, revealed how he sat in the back of the star’s white Rolls Royce, outside the former school, to discuss fund raising for the project.
He said Savile had come to know Axminster after being invited to take part in a local sponsored walk for the Royal Devon and Exeter whole body scanner appeal in the mid 1970s. He had been unable to take part but wished organisers well as he had helped raise cash for the scanner at Leeds Hospital.
Later Savile, who kept in touch with contacts in the area, learned about the closure of the Shute Girls School and that the building was for sale.
“He got really interested and thought he could form a trust and raise the money to buy it,” the informant told The Herald.
“He thought it was such a wonderful place and he came down three or four times. He thought it would be ideal as a holiday complex for deprived children and their families to come to Devon for a stay.
“I was invited to meet him outside the school because he had heard of my work with the scanner appeal in Axminster which had been very successful. We raised around £20,000 towards the £1million cost. He thought I might be able to help him set up the trust to buy the school.
“I sat with him in the back of his Rolls Royce while his chauffeur was in the front seat. He was very jolly, not at all serious, and very difficult to talk to because he was joking so much.
“He was odd, he kept messing about.
“Basically he wanted others to set up the trust because he said he had other business commitments.
“He kept the plan going for quite a while but in the end he was not able to find people locally to take it up for him and the school was turned into flats. I think he thought that because of who he was people would just fall in line and do his bidding.
“When I met him he just seemed a bit eccentric – a bit odd – but of course we had no idea then about what he had been doing and the shocking revelations that have only now come out.”
** Police say the claims against the late TV presenter span six decades - between 1959 and 2006 - and they are pursuing some 340 lines of enquiry.
By Monday 12 allegations of sexual offences had been officially recorded, but the police say there could be 60 victims.
The scandal surrounding the former Top Of The Pops presenter has mushroomed since ITV screened a documentary in which five women alleged they were abused by the celebrity.
Met Police detectives are in contact with 14 other forces as the number of allegations against the former DJ continues to rise.