York & North Yorkshire

Jimmy Savile's headstone removed from Scarborough cemetery

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Media captionFriend Sylvia Nicol: "How can I change my opinion of Jimmy?"

The gravestone of Sir Jimmy Savile is to be sent to a landfill after being removed from a Scarborough cemetery.

His family said they requested the removal of the headstone "out of respect to public opinion" following allegations he sexually abused girls.

Scotland Yard is pursuing 120 lines of inquiry and there could be 30 victims.

The triple headstone was removed from Woodlands Cemetery overnight to avoid a "circus" and will now be destroyed, funeral director Robert Morphet said.

Cleveland Police has confirmed it has received a new complaint from a man in Redcar relating to "a historic allegation of sexual assault" against Savile.

The incident is alleged to have taken place in the early 1970s when the man was nine years old.

Mr Morphet, from Joseph A Hey and Son, said Savile's family had made the decision to remove the gravestone because of "the impact the stone remaining there could have on the dignity and sanctity of the cemetery".

Inscriptions removed

Initially the stone was due to be removed on Wednesday morning.

Mr Morphet, who organised Savile's funeral and oversaw the dismantling of the headstone, said: "We felt the most dignified way to do it would be discreetly, quietly and while it was dark. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to take the stone down and take it away."

He said it was removed in three pieces and taken away on a lorry.

"We felt that it was the appropriate thing to do and in the event I think we've made the right decision," Mr Morphet said.

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Media captionSavile's family said they wanted to preserve the sanctity of the cemetery where he is buried

The headstone, which was inscribed with the epitaph "It Was Good While It Lasted" and verses composed by a family friend, will now be destroyed.

"We've taken it back to our yard in Leeds. We'll grind the inscription off and we will dispose of the memorial. It'll be broken up and just go to landfill," Mr Morphet said.

Savile had a long association with Scarborough and was buried there after his death, aged 84, in October 2011.

The Jim'll Fix It and Top Of The Pops presenter was buried in a gold coffin at a 45-degree angle at the cemetery, facing the sea, at his own request.

The coffin was later encased in concrete as a "security measure" amid speculation about its contents.

'Horrific accounts'

The grave, which overlooks the sea, would remain unmarked for the moment, Mr Morphet added.

"When we erected his headstone not three weeks ago I expected it to be here forever. I never thought it'd be removed, let alone so quickly.

"Once the outcome of the investigation has taken place then I guess Savile's family will sit down and think about what is the appropriate memorial, if any at all," he said.

Image caption Several memorials marking Savile's life have been removed in recent days

On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Police said it was pursuing 120 separate lines of inquiry after recording eight allegations against the Leeds-born entertainer, including two accusations of rape.

The police investigation follows claims made about the BBC broadcaster in an ITV documentary last week.

Mark Williams Thomas, a former child protection expert who presented the programme, told the BBC a number of women had contacted him since the programme was broadcast.

"I have had a significant number that have come direct to me and are on top of the numbers the police have spoken about.

"That is both people who have given me information about Jimmy Savile over the last 50 years as well as victims who have given me horrific accounts of their abuse," he said.

BBC Director General George Entwistle has promised a "comprehensive examination" of the allegations concerning Savile's time at the corporation.

'Great sadness'

The removal of the headstone comes days after a footpath sign in Scarborough commemorating Savile was taken down by the borough council.

A plaque outside his flat in Scarborough was also removed last week after the words "rapist" and "paedophile" were written on it.

David Jeffels, chairman of the Sir Jimmy Savile Memorial Steering Group, which was established in Scarborough after his death, said: "There has been great sadness and almost disbelief in Scarborough that this could have happened.

"Genuinely I don't think anyone on the committee had any idea that these allegations were going to be made or that they existed but I fully accept that so many women have come forward it must be a case of there being 'no smoke without fire' I am afraid."

Leeds City Council has taken Savile's name off an inscription on a wall commemorating high profile citizens at the city's Civic Hall.

Officials at the Royal Armouries International events centre in Leeds have confirmed they will rename their Savile's Hall site, named in honour of the late presenter, "out of respect" for public opinion.

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