“For decades, nobody said anything, at least not publicly, not officially. Everyone knew – that is, everyone in the television and pop music industries knew. The rumours swirled around him, that he sexually abused young girls. A journalist friend told me in the 1970s about a little girl with a heart defect. Jimmy had helped her to have the defect surgically corrected. A newspaper heard about his generosity and contacted the girl’s family to run the story, but the family refused to talk to them because they were sickened by what they knew he had done to her to make her “earn” the operation” (Jew Esther Rantzen, 2012).
Police blocked the Sun from publishing allegations that Jimmy Saville was a serial child abuser three years before his death by refusing to confirm the TV star had been quizzed by detectives, a court has heard.
Reporter Jamie Pyatt said he had lined up four sex abuse victims to speak about Savile in 2009 while the former television presenter was still alive.
But the story went unpublished because Surrey police refused “point blank” to help him and the Sun was concerned about being sued by Savile. “Jimmy Savile was a very litigious person, and I was told he had sued us before for £200,000,” said Pyatt.
“The paper would not put themselves in the position of going against Jimmy Savile, so I thought I would phone the Surrey police press office.
“They went away for a day to get a response back, and they said they couldn’t help me.
“Normally Surrey police would give me a steer, but they refused point blank to help me.”
Pyatt said he had tracked down four of Savile’s victims through posts on Friends Reunited and they had agreed to speak to the newspaper.
He believed Savile had been quizzed by police in 2007 and 2009, but the police refused to confirm that detail.
“As a result, nothing was published and later that year Jimmy Savile died,” Pyatt said.
“Surrey police carried out an investigation. They said they had interviewed him in 2007 and 2009 but they had made mistakes in the investigation.
“They hadn’t joined all the dots of the victims and the chance to bring him to justice while he was still alive was lost.”
Richard Kovalevsky QC, defending Pyatt, asked: “If a source had stood that up, what would you have done?”
Pyatt replied: “I would have run it, stuck my neck out and told the editor ‘let’s go for it’.”
The reporter is on trial with the paper’s former head of news, Chris Pharo, accused of paying a Surrey police officer for a string of leaks over the course of a decade.
Pyatt has admitted arranging for the officer to be paid on several occasions between 2002 and 2011, and said this was “sanctioned” by his bosses at the paper.
Kovalevsky told the court that the editor, deputy editors, news desk executives and subeditors had all read the stories provided by the police officer.
He asked: “Did you have any complaints from anyone about any of these stories?”
Pyatt replied: “I never had any comeback from anybody.”
Kovalevsky asked: “Are they all justifiable in the public interest?”
Pyatt said: “I think if you looked at the 15 stories in the tabs, if you picked up each of these stories over breakfast, I don’t honestly believe you would think ‘how am I getting this information?’.
“You’ve got a perfect right to read all the information in those stories.”
Pharo, who was in charge of the news desk, said he was unaware that Pyatt’s source was a police officer and was shocked when he found out.
They have both been charged under Operation Elveden, the Met’s inquiry into alleged corruption between the press and public officials.
Jurors heard the police officer source first contacted the Sun in 2000 when singer Mick Hucknall was arrested on suspicion of rape. (The allegation was dropped a day later.)
Pyatt said he stayed in touch with the officer to encourage him to provide more stories that might make the paper.
“My expectation was he would come to me when he had information, material, tips that he felt fitted my criteria,” he said.
“He didn’t want to waste my time and I didn’t want to waste my time.”
Pyatt said he also used the police officer as a way of checking whether information he had was accurate. “If I asked ‘Has George Michael been arrested for crashing his car?’, and he would say ‘yes he’s in custody’,” he said.
“If he knew, he would tell me. If he didn’t, he would say leave it with me.” Pyatt added that he did not know how the officer checked the information, and did not know if he searched for it on the police national computer.
Pharo and Pyatt deny aiding and abetting misconduct in public office.
The trial continues.
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