Savile’s Scarborough flat sold to child charity chief

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Jimmy Savile’s Scarborough flat has been sold – to one of the country’s top campaigners against child abuse.

Sir Rodney Walker was a leading supporter of the NSPCC’s Full Stop campaign chaired by the Duke of York and backed by celebrities such as Madonna and Ewan McGregor.

The business and sports supremo personally raised £25 million for Britain’s biggest bid to stamp out child cruelty.

Now the millionaire snooker bigwig plans to sink a small fortune into doing up Savile’s second home in Wessex Court.

Savile originally bought the apartment overlooking the South Bay as a gift to his mother Agnes, keeping it as a shrine to her following her death.

Now new owner Sir Rodney, 69, aims to strip the apartment which he had been vying for since it went on the market last summer.

He says he had “no second thoughts” about clinching the deal after the scandal into Savile’s child sex abuse broke.

He said: “I think like everyone else in the country I was totally taken aback. I had never heard any rumours or any suggestion he was not the generous philanthropist we all thought he was.”

Sir Rodney has been involved in a huge number of charities and good causes including Yorkshire Cancer Research and The Yorkshire Spinal Injuries Appeal.

As well as his work with the NSPCC, he formed the Myerscough Charitable Trust with his wife and sons with the aim of helping disadvantaged young people.

He added: “I raised £25 million for the NSPCC Full Stop appeal and they were generous enough to make me a life member.

“Once I had raised the £25 million that completed what I had been asked to do and I moved on to other charities - though I continue to support their work obviously.”

Former World Snooker and Leicester City Chairman Sir Rodney comes from Wakefield but he and his wife Anne own Number 1 Wessex Court on the floor below Savile’s No. 9.

They have been coming to Scarborough for years with sons Alexander and Timothy.

He said: “We are stripping the flat out. But we have not even started yet really. We have had a flat in the same block for 35 years but it’s only got two bedrooms.

“We have grandchildren and they want to come to Scarborough and we need more room.

“Savile’s is a three bedroom flat. We have taken everything out that was there and carrying out major alterations and putting in a new bathroom.”

Builders carrying out the work had claimed they could still smell the ghostly smoke from Savile’s trademark cigars in the bedrooms and woodwork.

But Sir Rodney scoffed: “What they’re smelling is soot because the chimney had been blocked off and we’re trying to clear it out.

“All Savile’s belongings had been taken away and sold at auction. We were very close to completing the purchase in August before the scandal broke.

“It delayed the completion by five or six months because once the scandal broke the trust handling the estate had to stop to see what the consequences were.

“There were a lot of claims coming in against the estate so it delayed the whole legal process.

“Thankfully, we now own the place. When we bought Flat One we started again and cleared it all out and we are going to do the same here.”

Wessex Court on Scarborough Esplanade became a target after the star’s seedy past came to light.

A gold Savile memorial plaque installed on the wall at Wessex Court by Scarborough Civic Society was removed after being vandalised.

And signs to a footpath opposite the building renamed Savile’s View in his honour were also taken down out of respect to the victims.

Sir Rodney insisted he was not troubled by the flat’s past. He said: “We are buying a piece of property. It could have belonged to anybody.

“The only effect it had on me was to delay the completion of the sale and set me back about five months.

“There were no second thoughts. All we were buying was a piece of property.

“It’s going to be a holiday flat. We are spending a lot of money trying to improve it and hope to have a nice apartment we can enjoy for many years.”

The flat was originally put on the market for £170,000 but is thought to have changed hands for around £200,000.

Sir Rodney refused to say what his offer was but indicated competition had been fierce.

Sir Rodney has been chairman of Sport England, UK Sport, the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, Wembley National Stadium, the Rugby Football League, and the World Snooker Association - from which he was ousted amid a high profile battle with Barry Hearn and a bust-up with Ronnie O’Sullivan.

He is trustee of the Wembley National Stadium Trust and the London Marathon Charitable Trust.

The former Yorkshire Man of the Year and Wakefield Trinity boss was knighted in 1996 for services to sport.

He is to retire as the long-standing chairman of East Kilbride-based Goals Soccer Centres just months after shareholders rejected a planned takeover of the five-a-side football pitch operator by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan.

He was a Vice Chairman of the NSPCC Full Stop Appeal and chaired the Sports Steering Group which raised £25 million for the campaign.

He was elected an Honorary Member of the Society in recognition of his contribution to the charity.