A woman has described to the High Court how she was "goosed" by comedian Freddie Starr in Jimmy Savile's dressing room when she was 15.
Karin Ward, 56, told Mr Justice Nicol, who is hearing the entertainer's libel and slander action against Ward, that she was sexually abused by her stepfather from the age of four and Starr's "extremely unpleasant" smell reminded her of him.
- January 22, 2021
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The mother-of-seven, a pupil at Duncroft Approved School at the time, in March 1974, said she had performed a sexual act on Savile more than once in return for going to BBC Television Centre in London and being in the audience for his Clunk Click show.
She said: "I had little expectation of men. I had been doing that since I was four years old. It was just what men wanted and I very much wanted to go on the telly."
She did not think that any of the girls at the school realised they were being abused: "We just used to refer to Jimmy Savile as a dirty old man and we would giggle about it."
Ward said she was given lithium at the school, which had affected her memory, but "very vividly" remembered that Starr stank of alcohol and cologne.
Challenged by Starr's counsel, Dean Dunham, that the comic had not touched her, Ward said: "Oh he did – but he behaved in the same way that every red-blooded male behaved in 1974 when it was perfectly acceptable. That wasn't what I objected to.
"I didn't like the way he smelt, reminiscent of my stepfather, and I would have preferred him to stay away from me but I wasn't really bothered.
"It wasn't a bottom pinch or a slap. It was known back then as a 'goose', when a man would put his hand under a girl's buttocks and give it a squeeze and usually say `goose' and, at the same time, reach for her breasts and and say 'honk, honk'. That was supposed to be funny.
"He got as far as the 'goose' and I recoiled because, while I expected that kind of behaviour from all men and was used to it, I was distressed because the smell reminded me of my stepfather.
"I have never complained about it because it was acceptable at the time. The only thing I complained about was that he called me a 't**less wonder' in a room full of people."
She added: "He didn't touch my breasts. He didn't get a chance. I didn't have any breasts anyway. He would have done if I hadn't gone mental. I freaked out and made a complete fool of myself.
"He called me a 'titless wonder'. I carried that phrase with me all my life and it certainly helped to wreck three marriages."
Starr, 72, has told the judge, who is hearing the case without a jury, that he did not at first remember appearing on the show until footage showed him in the studio, with Ms Ward in the audience behind him.
He has rejected her allegation that he groped and humiliated her in Savile's dressing room: "It just never happened. It was not in my moral compass. My moral compass will not allow me to do that."
He also denied her claim that he smelt of alcohol – as he did not drink, and never had done.
Starr, who is suing over interviews given to the BBC and ITV in October 2012 and statements on a website and in an eBook about Ward's life, claims he has lost £300,000 because of shows cancelled as a result of the allegations.
Ward denies the claims and relies on the defences of justification and public interest.
Ward said that she felt for Starr as he thought she was calling him a paedophile.
"I am not. I never called him a paedophile. He behaved in exactly the same way that would be expected of any red-blooded man in 1974, anyone surrounded by pretty girls all clamouring around him.
"He didn't do anything wrong. I am not objecting to the fact that he goosed me. That is fine. I couldn't number the amount of men who have done that to me."
Ward said she had no idea that what she had written about her life, with the aim of removing all the nastiness that had happened to her and filing it away, was going to be spread all over the globe.
"I wrote the books for my own self and got people to comment on my writing style, because writing is one of the things on my bucket list – I want to be an author.
"Had I ever, ever anticipated that anything like this might possibly happen…I am very very naive, I am very silly, I am a complete technophobe."
In her witness statement, Ward said that when she was contacted by the BBC in 2011 for a Newsnight interview about Savile, she thought he deserved to be exposed but was reluctant as she had advanced bowel cancer and was having treatment.
She felt pressured to do the interview – in which she included the words complained of by Starr but did not identify him by name – but was convinced that the BBC would never air it and, as she felt she would not survive, she did not think she was exposing herself to a great risk.
When the Newsnight programme did not go ahead – in 2012 – she had no control over the use the BBC made of the interview and never imagined that other programme makers would take the footage.
She said that when she spoke about Starr to a journalist for the ITV interview about Savile, who said he was building up a dossier, she did not know or intend that her words would be broadcast.
"I am not prepared to apologise to the claimant or retract what I have said, because I have told the truth about him."