Jimmy Savile

Freddie Starr 2nd British celebrity arrested in Savile scandal

Woman claims Freddie Starr molested her when she was 14 backstage at a show hosted by Savile

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2012, 3:58am

The child abuse scandal consuming the legacy of the late entertainer Jimmy Savile has netted its second celebrity arrest as police swooped on British comedian Freddie Starr.

Scotland Yard said late on Thursday that a man in his 60s from the English county of Warwickshire had been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault and released on bail. It did not name the suspect, but most British media identified him as Starr. Police said yesterday that the suspect had been released on bail.

They refused to answer any questions about the arrest, but the development had been widely anticipated. Starr himself volunteered to speak to police after being accused of having groped the woman whose claims are at the centre of the Savile scandal.

Starr, a 1970s variety show favourite known for his good looks and roguish humour, had previously denied any wrongdoing. "Never would I go with an underage girl," he told the BBC last month. "Never, ever, ever."

Starr stands accused by Karin Ward, who says she was 14 when the comedian "had a very bad attack of wandering hands" when the pair were backstage at a television show hosted by Savile in the 1970s.

Ward's claims have received particular attention because she was the first alleged victim of Savile to speak publicly. Her allegations helped touch off an avalanche of sex abuse claims against the BBC star, resulting in a scandal that has pulverised Savile's reputation, rocked the BBC and horrified Britons.

Police have since launched a probe into claims that Savile was part of a ring of powerful abusers who traded on their celebrity to exploit vulnerable children.

Officers said last week Savile and others linked to him may have abused some 300 victims. Although Savile died last year at 84, officers promised to go after his associates, and on Sunday detectives made their first arrest, questioning 1970s glam-rock star and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter before releasing him.

Lawyers for victims are preparing to fight for compensation. News of Starr's arrest came after Britain's National Westminster Bank said it had frozen Savile's assets to make it easier for potential victims to get payouts.

"It's what they needed to do," said lawyer Alan Collins, who represents 12 women who say they were abused by Savile in the 1960s and 1970s. "Obviously it's welcome news, otherwise you would have to go to court to get a freezing order."

Savile's estate is reportedly worth £4.3 million (HK$53.7 million). He left much of it to a charitable trust.

Georgina Calvert-Lee, a lawyer with the firm AO Advocates that specialises in child abuse that occurred years ago, said women who claim to have been abused by Savile would be able to bring civil cases even though the abuse happened decades ago.

Many crimes have a three-year statute of limitations, but that did not apply to child sex abuse cases, she said.