LONDON (Reuters) - British police arrested comedian Freddie Starr on Thursday as part of an investigation triggered by allegations that the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile sexually abused hundreds of children, media reported.
Police said in a statement they had arrested a man in his 60s on suspicion of sex offences. The man was identified by Sky News and ITV News as Starr, who earlier had offered to talk to police.
The allegations have shaken Britain’s state-funded broadcaster with hundreds of people now coming forward to report abuse dating back over several decades by Savile, a household name in Britain.
Lawyers representing some of the victims have said their clients indicated an organised paedophile ring involving celebrities existed at the BBC during the height of Savile’s fame in the 1970s and 1980s.
On Sunday, police arrested glam rock singer and convicted sex offender Gary Glitter, born Paul Gadd, as part of the Savile investigation. He was released on bail.
BBC Director General George Entwistle and his predecessor Mark Thompson, incoming Chief Executive Officer of the New York Times Co, have come under heavy criticism for their handling of suspicions about Savile.
At a recent parliamentary hearing Entwistle rejected claims that BBC bosses tried to hide allegations against Savile or suppressed an inquiry by one of their own news programmes.
Thompson, who was still director general in late 2011 when BBC’s Newsnight shelved a report investigating the allegations against Savile, has said he did not know about the programme’s investigation and had no involvement in the decision to axe the report.
The scandal has attracted attention in the United States, where Thompson’s appointment at the New York Times has been questioned by senior journalists at the newspaper, who have accused him of involvement in a cover-up to protect his former employer’s reputation.
Thompson has said he had approached his new employers to explain his role at the BBC and why he had not dealt with such an issue, despite being the director general and editor-in-chief of the world-renowned organisation.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the sex abuse allegations leave the BBC and other institutions with serious questions to answer.
The revelations have shocked fans of the once highly popular Savile, who died last year at the age of 84, as one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.
In a sign of preparation for claims, his 4.3 million pound estate has been frozen in response to the allegations.
Police working on the investigation are following three broad lines of inquiry: alleged offences by Savile, by others, and by Savile and others acting together.
Starr, 69, has publicly denied one allegation linked to a show Savile presented in the 1970s.
“The individual falls under the strand of the investigation we have termed ‘Savile and others’,” the police said.
“I’m being persecuted by the press saying that I have been with underage girls and I haven’t - never will I go with underage girls,” Starr told the BBC last month.
“I’m totally innocent. Totally innocent. I would never go with a girl like that ... I hope they question me, I want to clear my name. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
The comedian, singer and impressionist was the subject of one of Britain’s best-known tabloid newspaper headlines - “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster”.
The fictitious story in the top-selling Sun newspaper involved Starr eating a woman’s pet hamster after she refused to make him a sandwich.
Reporting by Matt Falloon and Stephen Mangan; Editing by Michael Roddy