LONDON – British police said Friday that a highly publicized inquiry into a BBC entertainer believed to have molested dozens of girls has widened to include more than 200 potential victims and possibly new perpetrators.
The Metropolitan Police says it is pursuing over 400 separate lines of inquiry as part of the investigation into the late Jimmy Savile, a well-known children's television presenter whose reputation crumbled after one woman after another came forward to allege that he routinely sexually assaulted young girls.
Savile hosted "Top of the Pops" and "Jim'll Fix It" — two shows watched by generations of British youth — and his death last year at the age of 84 drew tributes from across the country. But the revelations of abuse have horrified his former fans and led to a bout of soul-searching at the BBC, where some of the abuse was alleged to have taken place.
Savile's very public fall from grace has also prompted others to speak openly for the first time about their abuse — whether at his hands or the hands of the others.
Scotland Yard said Friday that it was now investigating allegations against people who are still alive. It did not go into further detail.
The scale of the abuse now coming to light could mean that Savile ranked among Britain's worst sex criminals, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in a statement.
"It's now looking possible that Jimmy Savile was one the most prolific sex offenders the NSPCC has ever come across," said Peter Watt, who runs the charity's helpline. In a statement, he suggested that the scandal could grow still further.
"We are also finding more and more people coming forward and reporting unrelated abuse after hearing the victims in this case speak out," he said.