Outrageous: Savile victim Deborah Cogger has reacted with disbelief that a blundering detective is involved in a new Savile inquiry
A detective who made a crucial blunder during the heavily criticised Jimmy Savile investigation has been given a leading role in a new inquiry into his sex crimes.
Angela Sullivan was a key member of the Surrey Police team that failed to bring the TV presenter to justice five years ago, despite receiving ‘serious and credible’ allegations.
During the inquiry, she interviewed both a witness and a woman abused as a teenager at a special school in the 1970s. But she later mixed up their accounts after making inaccurate notes, according to a damning report into the scandal.
This not only caused ‘confusion’ but had ‘very serious consequences for a possible prosecution’.
On Friday, Keir Starmer QC, who heads the Crown Prosecution Service, said Savile could have faced trial on three occasions if police had been less cautious and more thorough.
The Mail on Sunday has learned that Detective Constable Sullivan, who is in her 40s, is now at the forefront of another investigation into Savile’s activities at the same school, Duncroft, near Staines in Surrey.
Surrey Police were asked to confirm that Ms Sullivan was working on the new inquiry – Operation Outreach – after being criticised in the report.
A spokeswoman replied: ‘I’m not mentioning names but we will confirm that an officer from the previous investigation is involved in Operation Outreach.’
Last night Savile’s victims reacted to the development with anger and bemusement. Deborah Cogger, 52, who was sexually abused by Savile at Duncroft when she was 14, said Ms Sullivan’s involvement in Operation Outreach was ‘nothing short of outrageous’.
She added: ‘How can this be allowed to happen? There is a reason why so many kept it hidden away for so long; they knew they wouldn’t be believed. It’s sickening to be treated with such contempt. It’s like nothing has changed and not one lesson has been learned. And the police wonder why victims didn’t come forward.’
Last month Ms Cogger received a letter from Ms Sullivan saying that her allegations were being reviewed by a unit set up after new witnesses came forward.
‘As I explained when I spoke to you on the phone, we may need to contact you again,’ it says.
Ms Sullivan is not named in the report into the original Surrey investigation, but she is referred to as ‘DC S’ and her mistakes are highlighted by the author, Alison Levitt QC, Mr Starmer’s principal legal adviser.
Savile victim Deborah Cogger received this letter from Ms Sullivan
As well as laying bare police blunders, it is also critical of the unnamed CPS lawyer who decided not to charge Savile.
In his initial advice to police, he said he would not be inclined to prosecute because the cases were ‘relatively minor’ – which troubled Ms Levitt – though he later changed his mind.
Described as ‘extremely experienced’, the lawyer has since retired.
From the outset, the police treated the Duncroft victims with ‘a degree of caution which was neither justified nor required’, the report said. One of the problems faced by Ms Sullivan was a reluctance from the victims to give evidence.
But Ms Levitt says: ‘Each of those to whom I have spoken has said that had she been given more information by the police at the time of the investigation, and in particular had she been told that she was not the only woman to have complained, she would probably have been prepared to give evidence. Having spoken to the victims, I have been driven to conclude that had the police and prosecutors taken a different approach, a prosecution might have been possible.’
The Surrey Police investigation began in May 2007 when a woman, referred to as Ms B, contacted police claiming she witnessed Savile sexually assaulting a teenage girl – Ms C – at Duncroft in the late Seventies. A week later, Ms Sullivan and another officer visited Ms B at her home but did not take a statement from her but ‘merely made some notes’.
They contained a great deal of general background ‘but little about the incident itself’. The report recounts how the assault took place in the television room at the school.
‘They sat in rows on chairs which had backs but no arms. Ms B described how she was sitting next to Ms C, and that Jimmy Savile was on Ms C’s right-hand side.
‘She [Ms B] looked to her right and saw Jimmy Savile take Ms C’s hand and put it over his crotch area . . . through this horrible nylon tracksuit he used to wear.’
It would be a year before Ms Sullivan wrote up her notes of her meeting with Ms B. And it was perhaps because of the passage of time that she made a significant mistake. Ms B had been clear about witnessing the assault with her own eyes but Ms Sullivan said she had only seen Savile ‘sitting next to [Ms C] with a blanket over them’. Later when she came to write a similar report for the CPS lawyer, who would decide whether to press charges, Ms Sullivan described how Ms B had seen ‘movement under a blanket’.
But Ms Levitt insists that Ms B was clear and consistent about what she saw and never once mentioned a blanket. The lawyer says: ‘I am satisfied that DC S has described parts of the account which was later given by Ms C as though it had been said by Ms B. I am satisfied that Ms B did not tell DC S that what happened had taken place underneath a blanket. On the contrary, she was clear and consistent in her description of what she herself had seen.
Grim reading: The latest damning report into Jimmy Savile’s decades of sex abuse was released on Friday
‘If that is right, then the account [given by Ms Sullivan in June 2008] was not only likely to have caused confusion but might have had very serious consequences for a possible prosecution, given that the credibility and consistency of Ms B would have been a key issue in the case.’
Ms Levitt said she was very concerned about the discrepancy ‘because if her account is correct, Ms B was an eyewitness to an indecent assault, but if one were to rely on DC S’s description, then Ms B’s evidence at its highest consisted of hearsay and suspicion’.
She added: ‘The significance of this is that if Ms B had witnessed the assault herself, it might in certain circumstances have been possible to prosecute without the victim’s evidence. It does not seem that this had occurred either to the lawyer or to the officer.’
Surrey Police said last night: ‘We accept the summary document gave a confused account, however the accompanying papers within the advice file submitted to the CPS lawyer contained accurate accounts.’
When Ms Levitt interviewed Ms C – who was reluctant to give evidence in court – she asked her if she had been told by police that other women had come forward.
‘She said that not only had she not been told this, but that she could remember saying to DC S on that final occasion (when she had refused to be tape-recorded) that “if you can find me other people, I might change my mind”.’
Similarly, it was never made clear to the victims that they would always remain anonymous.
The report says: ‘Surrey Police have told me that DC S believes that she discussed the court process and “special measures” with Ms C but cannot now recall whether she mentioned a complainant’s right not to be named in the press.’
Asked by Ms Levitt if she would have changed her mind about giving evidence if she had received more information from police, Ms C replied that she might have done. She added that had the officer ‘pushed her’, she might have ‘given in’.
Ms Levitt says the mistake by Ms Sullivan may have misled the CPS lawyer, who advised there should be no further action but suggested, puzzlingly, that Savile should be visited by a ‘senior officer of rank’. What happened next reflects Savile’s cavalier attitude to both the law and the police. After receiving a letter from Surrey Police by recorded delivery, he agreed to be interviewed under caution the ‘next time he was in their area’. In the event, he was questioned in his private office at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
It was around this time that he assaulted his last known victim, a 43-year-old woman he meet on a train from Leeds to London.
Mr Starmer said he hoped the report would prove to be a ‘watershed’ moment in the handling of child abuse cases by police and prosecutors.
He said: ‘Many people feel that for sexual offences, where it is “one person’s word against another’s” and there is no or little scientific or other evidence to support the allegation, no prosecution should be brought.
‘But this is to ignore the reality of many sexual offences which, by their nature, do not usually take place in front of witnesses and result in no meaningful scientific evidence.
‘Taking a cautious approach to all complainants, on the ground that some might be making a false allegation of a sexual offence, can have the consequence that a prosecution for a true complaint may not take place.’
The CPS and the Association of Chief Police Officers have developed a new approach to the handling of child abuse cases, under which the accounts of suspects will be subject to more detailed investigation.
Victims will be given more support, and a new appeal system will be developed if they feel their accusations have not been dealt with properly. Last night Surrey Assistant Chief Constable Jerry Kirkby said: ‘A team of detectives and staff are being led by Detective Superintendent Jon Savell, head of public protection at Surrey Police, on Operation Outreach.
‘Det Supt Savell conducted a detailed review of the investigation in 2007 which has been distributed publicly by the Force and has been open about points of learning.
‘The victims who came forward to Surrey Police in 2007/8 were taken seriously. As noted by the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions, victims continue to speak of the detective [Sullivan] who dealt with them with “great affection” and describe her diligence in conducting enquiries, therefore the decision to involve this detective going forward was taken to provide consistency of contact with victims who had been interviewed previously and had built a positive relationship with this officer which is always good practice.’
Ms Levitt said she had seen nothing to suggest that the decisions not to prosecute were influenced by any improper motive on the part of either police or prosecutors.
And she added: ‘Most of the victims continue to speak warmly of the individual officers with whom they had contact.’
See also: Did Jimmy Savile fix his interrogation?