Revealed: Tape that shows BBC chief ‘did know of Savile probe’
- MP Rob Wilson sent bombshell tape recording to BBC Trust chairman
- Mr Wilson says tape proves there was a ‘cover-up’ over Jimmy Savile affair
- On tape Nick Pollard, who headed inquiry, says director-general was aware of Savile accusations
A Tory MP last night sent a bombshell tape recording to the chairman of the BBC Trust which he says proves there was a ‘cover-up’ over the Jimmy Savile affair.
Rob Wilson has given Chris Patten a recording of Nick Pollard – who headed an independent inquiry into why the BBC’s Newsnight programme axed its investigation of Savile.
On the tape, Mr Pollard is heard admitting that he made a ‘mistake’ by withholding a key detail from his report. He says he was told that BBC head of news, Helen Boaden, had personally informed director-general Mark Thompson of the sex abuse allegations against Savile in December 2011. Mr Pollard added he received the information in a letter from Ms Boaden’s lawyer.
The assertion is at odds with Mr Thompson’s claim that he was unaware of the allegations against Savile until after he left the BBC in September 2012. In his final report in December 2012, Mr Pollard stated that he had ‘no reason to doubt’ Mr Thompson’s story.
But during the tape-recorded private conversation, Mr Pollard adds: ‘It doesn’t particularly reflect well on me that I overlooked this [the letter] in the report.’
Now Mr Wilson has inflamed the long-running saga by telling Lord Patten, he must decide, ‘whether you wash your hands of this – or whether you listen to the evidence yourself.’
The £3 million inquiry was set up last year to investigate claims that Newsnight scrapped an investigation into Savile’s paedophile activities in December 2011 to avoid a clash with a Christmas tribute programme.
Mr Thompson, now chief executive of the New York Times, has admitted that he rang Ms Boaden and other senior executives in BBC News in December 2011 to discuss Newsnight’s investigation of Savile.
But he maintains he did not discover what it was about until nine months later, after he left the BBC.
Mr Wilson told The Mail on Sunday: ‘This has a bad smell about it and looks like some sort of BBC attempt to cover over the truth of what really happened.
‘The public is being misled about what the most senior person in the BBC knew about Savile when the BBC were running tribute programmes and keeping evidence of Savile’s crimes under wraps.’
A BBC Trust spokeswoman said: ‘We made clear to Rob Wilson MP that he should raise his concerns with Nick Pollard, as a first step. We will, of course, consider further evidence if Mr Wilson wishes to send it to us.’
A spokesman for Mr Pollard said: ‘There has been speculation about the Pollard Review’s conclusion about the extent of Mark Thompson’s knowledge. This speculation is based on a false premise, namely that insufficient consideration was given by the review to a letter from Helen Boaden’s lawyers.
‘That letter was fully and carefully considered by the Review before the publication of my report.’