Suspected child abusers Jimmy Savile and Peter Jaconelli could have been captured 30 years ago, had police listened to their victims at the time.
That is the frank admission of North Yorkshire Police, with the force now confessing that it was told about the abuse decades ago – but decided not to do anything about it.
The force has now offered a full apology to the duo’s victims, after a report found there was “overwhelming” evidence to say they were guilty of dozens of serious sexual offences - including rape.
A report on Operation Hibiscus reveals that ice cream magnate Jaconelli carried out a four-decade campaign of abuse in Scarborough, and along with Savile, would have been arrested if still alive.
But with Jaconelli’s offending believed to have gone on until a year before his death in 1999, it means the police’s decision not to pursue the initial complaints let him continue abusing children for at least another decade.
“His crimes were the worst kept secret in Scarborough,” said an anonymous Scarborough man, who worked for the ice cream man at his seafront parlour as a teenage boy.
“It’s unbelievable that so many people could know what was going on, yet the police have clearly just turned a blind eye.”
He claims that while none of his friends ever admitted to being abused by Jaconelli, the obese judo expert would “brush” himself against boys and grope them.
“It wasn’t nice at all, but the boys were paid really well and they would just joke about it.”
His comments mirror those made by former Scarborough councillor Geoff Evans, who was one of the first to break their silence over the former Mayor’s deviant ways.
And since a TV expose on the duo, which police deem the “catalyst” for the wave of allegations against Jaconelli. the police have received 37 allegations from 35 different victims.
The vast majority involve Jaconelli alone, although there are two “shared” victims.
In an interview with The Scarborough News, Assistant Chief Constable Paul Kennedy said while he is aware rumours circulated around Scarborough for years, nobody else has so far been reported to police involving abuse.
However, while apologising to the victims his force ignored decades earlier, he said North Yorkshire Police will now “listen intently” to anybody who comes forward with any information about abuse.
“It’s quite clear that as a result of our investigation, in the past, of all the victims that have stepped forward, in a small number of case, there were missed opportunities when victims of crime tried to report crimes to the police they were clearly not listened to and clearly not investigated as thoroughly as they could be.
“What I can say is that we did miss opportunities in the past in the region of 30 years ago and to those people who did try and make those reports, on behalf of North Yorkshire Police, I’m so sorry that we did miss those opportunities.”
Ultimately, the decision to prosecute the pair would have been in the hands of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The police also state that both Savile and Jaconelli may have disputed the allegations when interviewed.
But Assistant Chief Constable Kennedy feels the stack of evidence against both is “so significant and overwhelming”, both would have faced the possibility of standing in court together to give both them –and their victims – their day in court.
However, with Jaconelli’s death 15 years ago, and Savile’s in 2012, any hope of their victims seeing justice was cruelly dashed.
“It is a matter of great regret that, from the outset of the investigation, there was no prospect of true justice being achieved as the suspects are deceased,” added Mr Kennedy.
“However, I hope the victims have gained a measure of closure from knowing that matters have now been investigated as fully as possible.”
But now woman responsible for keeping North Yorkshire Police in line has accused the force of “failing” Jaconelli’s and Savile’s victims.
Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan took aim after the report on Operation Hibiscus highlighted the full extent of the duo’s decades of abuse in the region.
And the elected crime tsar adds that those 35 victims have been forced to live in misery, after the police failed to act upon initial complaints.
“It is clear that historically, North Yorkshire Police failed these victims,” said Mrs Mulligan.
But she added: “Whilst it is not possible to turn back the clock, I am confident that under the leadership of Chief Constable Dave Jones, who has come to North Yorkshire from elsewhere, any historical issues will be properly dealt with.
“Indeed the Chief Constable has referred the force to the IPCC on two separate occasions, one of which was then referred back to the force and the other we await the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) conclusions.”
The IPCC is currently probing about how the force dealt to complaints two years ago relating to Jaconelli and Savile’s offending.
It self-refereed itself in April to the commissions, and follows another investigation which found there was evidence of organisational failure regarding the Savile case, although the force was cleared of misconduct.
And Mrs Mulligan added: “Looking at North Yorkshire Police now, I am certain that the service has changed and believe this is demonstrated by their actions today.
“Moreover, in October I commissioned a formal ‘health check’ into how North Yorkshire Police currently investigates child sexual abuse and exploitation.
“This was a comprehensive review, and whilst a number of actions were identified, I am satisfied that the force has been able, for some time now, to respond effectively and immediately to allegations of abuse.”
And she warned that with more victims likely to come forward, it’s vital the police have the right safeguards in place to help them.
“It is crucial that the police and specialist support services for victims are both in place, ready and able to respond,” she said.
“Whilst no service is perfect, I do feel able to reassure the public that North Yorkshire Police is today in a strong position to act as is needed and expected.”
And following the last IPCC report, which highlighted flaws with the force, Assistant Chief Constable Kennedy said the force was continuing to take a “proactive” approach to tackling historical sexual abuse. cases.
He added: “Whilst there were failings to report some relevant information, there is no evidence to suggest North Yorkshire Police failed in its responsibility to support Operation Yewtree, the national investigation concerning Savile.
He added: “The public should be able to trust in its police service, and we are doing everything we can to be open and transparent about how we are dealing with historic sexual abuse cases whilst respecting the privacy of victims.”