The Metropolitan Police said it believed it had identified more than 200 victims of either the dead DJ or other stars. “We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale”, the senior officer leading the inquiry said.
However the Evening Standard understands that the vast majority of the complaints have come from victims who say Savile was the culprit. But it is understood that officers are also examining a “handful” of cases involving living celebrities.
Around six have been accused of child abuse on BBC premises or while they were employed by the corporation. They include Savile and Steptoe And Son actor Wilfrid Brambell, both of whom are now dead.
Celebrities who have been named as either knowing about and even taking part in the abuse include convicted paedophile Gary Glitter and entertainer Freddie Starr. Both have denied the allegations.
Among those not named are a soap actor and a former BBC radio presenter. Scotland Yard refused to give a figure for the number of stars under investigation. They face arrest and questioning. Scotland Yard said in a statement: “As we have said from the outset, our work was never going to take us into a police investigation into 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.”
A spokesman said the Operation Yewtree inquiry had established more than 400 lines of inquiry and identified more than 200 potential victims.
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 and would like to reassure the public that we take all these cases very seriously and they will be investigated with the utmost sensitivity.”
Peter Watt, head of the charity NSPCC’s helpline, said: “It’s now looking possible that Jimmy Savile was one of the most prolific sex offenders the NSPCC has ever come across. We have received over 136 calls directly relating to allegations against him, which we’ve passed to the police.”
BBC bosses are to make a decision on Sunday over the airing of a new investigation into the Savile scandal. A Panorama programme focusing on why an original Newsnight inquiry was pulled was due to go out on Monday.
But the show’s bosses today revealed that it could run after BBC director-general George Entwistle appears before the culture, media and sport select committee on Tuesday. A BBC spokesman said staff would be working over the weekend to get the programme ready. But another is already scheduled for the BBC1 slot.
It came as a leaked email cast doubt on the BBC’s stated reason for cancelling the Newsnight inquiry.
The email, written by press officer Helen Deller and dated December 7, reveals that Newsnight journalists had been “focusing on allegations of abuse” and also gives the impression that it was a lot closer to transmission than the BBC has let on.
Its official line is that it was dropped because it was focusing on a different angle it was unable to “substantiate”.