ational treasure in life, reviled ‘sex abuser’ in death

(CNN) — The BBC is embroiled in a scandal that one of its veteran correspondents has called its worst crisis in nearly 50 years — over its response to allegations that have turned a beloved on-air personality into one of the most reviled figures in the UK.

Since his death a year ago at age 84, Jimmy Savile, the popular TV host, disc jockey and charity fundraiser has been knocked off his perch as a national treasure, accused of being a predatory pedophile who used his fame and position to abuse youngsters, sometimes on BBC premises.

The corporation has been widely criticized for its handling of the crisis, which has grown in recent days. British police say more than 200 possible victims have now been identified in what one officer Commander Peter Spindler said was “alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale.”

But who was Jimmy Savile and how did he become the eccentric star — a cigar-smoking, jewel-encrusted, larger-than-life character who was rewarded with a knighthood for his charitable work?

He mixed with British high society, and his death was greeted with sadness by many, including Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall. He was buried with customary glitz in a gold-colored coffin and with a green beret presented to him by the Royal Marines — but his life began amid much humbler surroundings.

Savile was born in Leeds in northern England on Halloween in 1926 and as a teenager conscripted to work as a coal miner during World War II — these young wartime miners were known as the Bevin Boys. He was one of the surviving Bevin Boys who received an award from the then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008 for helping to keep the mines operational during the conflict.

Savile suffered serious spinal injuries in a mine explosion and left the colliery but it doesn’t appear to have stopped him from lifelong participation in sport.

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