London - British police investigating the late BBC star Jimmy Savile said Friday they were now dealing with up to 200 potential victims, and had launched a full criminal probe into other suspects who are still alive.
Scotland Yard said the investigation, dubbed Operation Yewtree, was dealing with alleged child sex abuse “on an unprecedented scale”, with a “staggering number of victims” involved.
“After two weeks of gathering information from both the public and a number of organisations, in excess of 400 lines of enquiry have been assessed and over 200 potential victims have been identified,” it said in a statement.
“Our work was never going to take us into a police investigation in to Jimmy Savile. What we have established in the last two weeks is that there are lines of inquiry involving living people that require formal investigation.”
It did not give any names.
Savile was one of Britain's best-loved television presenters who raised huge sums for charity, but claims that he sexually abused underage girls have left his reputation in shreds and the BBC facing accusations of a cover-up.
Two weeks after a programme by BBC's commercial rival ITV aired allegations about him by a handful of women, Scotland Yard said the claims had snowballed with dozens of other people coming forward.
Commander Peter Spindler said: “The public's response to this issue has been astounding. We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale.
“The profile of this operation has empowered a staggering number of victims to come forward to report the sexual exploitation which occurred during their childhood.
“I am pleased that victims feel confident enough to speak out about the abuse they suffered.”
Instantly recognisable with his platinum hair, garish tracksuits, jangling jewellery and huge cigars, eccentric bachelor Savile was one of the top figures in British broadcasting from the 1960s to the 1980s. He died last year aged 84.
The scale of the alleged abuse perpetrated by the twice knighted Savile over several decades has stunned the British public and dominated newspaper headlines.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it is possible that Savile was “one of the most prolific sex offenders” the charity has ever come across, saying they alone had received 136 calls with allegations against him.
The BBC has announced an independent probe into its “culture and practices” during Savile's time at the broadcaster. - AFP