LONDON (AFP) - British police said on Friday that late BBC star presenter Jimmy Savile was a predatory sex offender whose victims were as young as eight and who preyed on children and adults in hospitals and even a hospice.
A report by police and child protection authorities found that the presenter, who was one of the biggest TV stars in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, used his celebrity status to "hide in plain sight".
Prosecutors said Savile, who died in 2011 at the age of 84, could have been prosecuted if police had taken the victims more seriously.
The alleged attacks stretched for more than 50 years from 1955 to 2009 and were "mainly opportunistic sexual assaults - many in situations manipulated by Savile" - but in some cases, he groomed his victims, the report said.
A total of 450 people came forward with evidence relating to Savile, from which police recorded 214 criminal offences spread around Britain, including 34 of rape or penetration, the report said.
Peter Watt, director of Britain's child protection agency NSPCC, who co-authored the report, said the scale of the abuse "simply beggared belief".
He said Savile was "without doubt one of the most prolific sex offenders we have ever come across".
The eight-year-old victim was a boy, but more than 80 per cent of the victims were female.
The report found that Savile had committed offences at 13 hospitals, including the world-renowned children's hospital Great Ormond Street in London, and had abused a teenaged visitor to a hospice.
Alison Levitt, legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, said Savile could have been prosecuted in 2009 had police taken victims more seriously.
Commander Peter Spindler, the head of specialist crime investigations at London's Metropolitan Police, said the report "paints a stark picture emphasising the tragic consequences of when vulnerability and power collide".
"Savile's offending footprint was vast, predatory and opportunistic. He cannot face justice today but we hope this report gives some comfort to his hundreds of victims, they have been listened to and taken seriously."