Jimmy Savile's closest relatives spoke for the first time on Saturday, explaining their reasons for having the late TV presenter's gravestone removed and broken up.

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Savile's headstone was removed just weeks after it was put in place

Breaking their silence, a family statement released by Savile's nephew, Roger Foster, said: "We became more aware of the outrage that many members of the public were feeling. We took the decision to remove and destroy the headstone so that it couldn't become a focus for malicious people."

"The decision was a difficult one to make, but we knew it was the right one."

The statement, released to the Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper, spoke of the family's "own despair", adding that their "sadness does not compare to that felt by the victims" who were abused by the late TV presenter.

"How could the person we thought we knew and loved do such a thing?" the statement read.

"Why would a man who raised so much money for charity, who gave so much of his own time and energy for others, risk it all doing indecent criminal acts? How could anyone live their life doing the 'most good and most evil' at the same time?"

They family said their "thoughts" and "prayers" were with those who had suffered abuse.

"We recognise that even our own despair and sadness does not compare to that felt by the victims," they said. They said their "feelings are in turmoil" as they await the next turn of events.

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Foster continued: "Like everyone else we asked the question: why now? We couldn't find an answer."

Foster said the family could understand the victims' "reluctance to say anything earlier" and said the family could "appreciate the courage it has taken to speak out now".

The family spoke out as it emerged that the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has written to Rome to ask if the Vatican could investigate whether the Papal Honour awarded to Jimmy Savile for his charitable works could be posthumously removed and its effects nullified.

Savile was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II in 1990.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said last week's letter was written in response to "the deep distress of all those who have suffered abuse" and "the disquiet at Savile's name remaining on Papal Honours lists".

The spokesman said there was no official process to remove Papal knighthoods and no "deadline" for Rome to reply to the archbishop.

"It is understood that knighthoods fall when the person dies, but this letter is a request to see if there is anything that can be done," he said.

Yesterday PR guru Max Clifford claimed dozens of big name stars from the 1960s and 70s have contacted him because they are "frightened" they will become implicated in the widening child abuse scandal.

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Savile's cottage in Allt na Reigh in Glencoe

He said the stars were worried because at their peak they had lived a hedonistic lifestyle where young girls threw themselves at them but they "never asked for anybody's birth certificate".

Scotland Yard is leading the current investigation into accusations of abuse by former BBC DJ and presenter Savile, which now involve around 300 potential victims.

Officers have searched a cottage belonging to Savile in Allt na Reigh in Glencoe, Scotland, to look for "any evidence of any others being involved in any offending with him".

Speaking on London's LBC radio, Clifford said young pop stars at the time had gone from working in a factory one week to performing in front of thousands of people "and girls are screaming and throwing themselves at them then".

"All kinds of things went on and I do mean young girls throwing themselves at them in their dressing rooms at concert halls, at gigs, whatever," he said.

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Clifford: 'We are talking about a lot of people that were huge names in the 60s and 70s'

"They never asked for anybody's birth certificate and they were young lads ... suddenly everyone's dream was a reality."

He added: "We are talking about a lot of people that were huge names in the 60s and 70s and a lot of them barely remember what they did last week, genuinely.

"For them to try and recount what happened in a dressing room in 1965 or 1968 or 1972, genuinely they are frightened to death."

Seven alleged victims of Savile made complaints to four separate police forces - Surrey, London, Sussex and Jersey, while the disgraced television presenter was alive but it was decided that no further action should be taken.

Peter Watt, director of the the NSPCC helpline, said today of the Savile case: "The NSPCC helpline has never dealt with so many allegations against one individual."

Calls about Savile were "still coming in thick and fast and show little sign of slowing down", he added.

Since the allegations about Savile emerged, the children's charity said, it had received 190 calls directly relating to him, which have been passed to police.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Jimmy Savile in 1961 around the time he was working for Radio Luxembourg. He is at London Airport with Pan American stewardess Birgit Johansson with two gold discs; one is for American singer Elvis Presley for having sold one million copies of "It's Now or Never" in the UK, and the other is for Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker

  • Cilla Black and Jimmy Savile before a Variety Club Luncheon at the Savoy Hotel. Taken in 1964, the year Savile became the first presenter of Top of the Pops

  • Two women have come forward with allegations from the 1960s, one who was 14 and another who was a teenager when she claims Savile sexually abused her in Scarborough

  • Savile in 1969 with Physically Handicapped and Able-Bodied (PHAB) member Erika Mentz from Germany and other PHAB members at a dance at Devonshire House

  • 1969 also saw Savile begin volunteering at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital for specialist spinal injuries. He would later be given a room there

  • Jimmy Savile presenting a cheque to children on behalf of the NSPCC in 1969

  • The 1970s saw Savile start volunteering at Leeds General Infirmary and...

  • ... Broadmoor secure high-security psychiatric hospital. Allegations by former patients have been made against Savile although ex-workers have disputed the idea that he could have been left alone with anyone whilst working there

  • The 70s also saw the start of Jim'll Fix It. Allegations from this period include Caroline Moore, a 13-year-old patient at Stoke Mandeville hospital in 1971, who says Savile "rammed his tongue" down her throat and another allegation accuses Savile of molesting a brain-damaged teenage patient at Leeds General Infirmary in 1972

  • The 1980s saw the continuation of Top of the Pops and Jim'll Fix It as Savile became a much loved household name. Two allegations relating to this time include one from a then-15-year-old girl (not pictured) who made a complaint of abuse by Savile in Lancashire. Pictured is 12-year-old Rebecca Heap

  • Savile at the Stoke Mandeville hospital with injured children from Beirut in 1987

  • Savile was knighted in 1990 and continued his charity work throughout the decade

  • Savile was questioned in 2007 by police about allegations of sexual abuse but the Crown Prosecution service says there is not enough evidence to warrant a prosecution

  • A 2008 police report into abuse at the Haut de Garenne children's home in Jersey names Savile, although this is never made public

  • Savile re-united with his Jim'll Fix It chair in 2009. The previous year Sussex police received a complaint of sexual assault but went on to say the victim was "unwilling to co-operate in any investigation"

  • Jimmy Savile is found dead at the age of 84 in October 2011. He is buried in Scarborough

  • In December 2011 the BBC drop an investigation by Newsnight into the allegations of sexual abuse by Jimmy Savile. Three tribute programmes are aired instead

  • ITV airs a documentary, 'Exposure, the Other Side of Jimmy Savile', in which a number of women claim they were abused by Savile as youngsters, including Karin Ward (pictured)

  • Within days of the documentary, many more allegations surface. By the 9 October Peter Spindler of the Metropolitan Police tells the BBC: "It is quite clear from what women are telling us that Savile was a predatory sex offender"

  • 11 October 2012 and George Entwistle, Director General of the BBC, asks journalists why the Newsnight programme was dropped as police from Tayside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and North Yorkshire police say they are investigating allegations going back to 1959

  • 12 October and police reveal they have 340 potential lines of inquiry

  • 15 October sees a man come forward alleging that Savile abused him when he was a nine-year-old boyscout

  • Savile's family removed his headstone from his grave and broke it up in the wake of the furore

  • Jimmy Savile sexually abuses transgender man

    A transgender man comes forward alleging that Jimmy Savile 'stuck his hand up his nightdress' while he was a 17-year-old teenage girl at Broadmoor in the 1970's. More here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/10/15/jimmy-savile-timeline-abuse-allegations_n_1966426.html?1350304573#slide=1641388