BBC email fuels Savile 'abuse' row

Blackpool Citizen: A Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile was dropped by the BBC A Newsnight investigation into Jimmy Savile was dropped by the BBC

The investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile while he was working at the BBC has taken another twist.

A leaked internal email which cast doubt on the corporation's stated reason for cancelling a Newsnight investigation into the claims against the late DJ has appeared in The Times.

Disclosure of the document is likely to increase suspicions that the report was dropped last December because the BBC feared it would clash with planned Christmas tributes to one of its biggest stars, the newspaper said.

But a spokeswoman for the BBC dismissed the email as "simply an exchange between a junior press officer and the Newsnight producer asking for further information about the Jimmy Savile investigation".

The email, dated December 7, reveals that Newsnight journalists had been "focusing on allegations of abuse" and not, as subsequently claimed by the BBC, on an alleged failure by police to investigate Savile properly, it added.

The email, sent from a press officer to Newsnight editor Peter Rippon and other staff, reveals that the Newsnight investigation was so well advanced by then that the press office was preparing "lines to take" to respond to questions after its planned broadcast.

And it shows that the BBC was aware of the risk that the report would raise questions about why it had failed to expose Savile as a paedophile while he was alive, the newspaper said. The press officer wrote that "we may well need to do a bit of managing around this" and that "we should bear in mind how BBC complaints team respond".

Mr Rippon has previously claimed that the story his journalists had been pursuing had been "weakened from a Newsnight perspective" because they had been unable to establish any "institutional failure" by the police or the Crown Prosecution Service.

Rob Wilson, the Conservative MP for Reading East, who obtained the email, said: "This leaked email and the evidence from internal BBC sources casts doubt on the carefully crafted version of events posted in Peter Rippon's blog on October 2. We need a full explanation of why the focus of the Newsnight expose of Jimmy Savile was abruptly changed at the last minute."

Responding to the leaked email, the BBC spokeswoman said: "This ridiculous story in no way casts doubt on what the BBC has previously said on this." She added that the email would be passed to the inquiry into whether there were any failings in the way the Newsnight report was handled.

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