Abuse allegations made against Jimmy Savile while he was alive could have been linked to show "a pattern of behaviour", Scotland Yard's commissioner said today.
Bernard Hogan Howe said police and other organisations had not "put together" claims made against the disgraced television presenter.
Members of the public may also have been discouraged from taking action because of Savile's reputation at the time, he said.
The commissioner told reporters: "You might have thought that people would at least have talked about it and intervened.
"It does look as if from time to time people have been concerned, they've made the start to intervene, but probably then they've relied a little bit too much on his reputation and his word that he did nothing.
"If you accept all the public accounts of the activity then it's possibly spanned 50 years which is a huge amount of time.
"First of all within an organisation that's got everybody's respect, but probably it appears that people haven't intervened when they've had suspicions.
"Then of course other organisations including the police have had individual allegations that have not been put together to actually show that this person may well have shown a pattern of behaviour that's been pretty awful."
Four police forces were contacted by seven potential victims while Savile was alive. Surrey, Sussex and Jersey all found that there was not enough evidence to proceed.
Two potential victims came forward to Scotland Yard - one of whom claimed she had been abused in the 1970s but did not want to pursue a criminal investigation.
Officers are trying to find the original file relating to a second claim made by a woman who claimed she was assaulted in the 1980s, possibly in a caravan outside BBC premises in west London.
Mr Hogan Howe said a lot of what happened was before changes were made to the sharing of police data following the murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.
A team of 30 officers are currently investigating three categories of allegations: those involving Savile, those involving Savile and others, and those involving others.
The commissioner said that most of the "others" are involved in the entertainment industry.
So far around 300 potential victims have been identified, with Met officers following more than 400 lines of inquiry.
Today a probe has been launched into the BBC's "culture and practices" during Savile's career.
Led by former Court of Appeal judge Dame Janet Smith, the probe will also determine whether the broadcaster's child protection and whistle-blowing policies are up to scratch.
The inquiry comes a year to the day since Savile died aged 84 at his home in Leeds and a day after former pop star Gary Glitter was arrested and bailed until mid-December by police investigating the Savile scandal.
Glitter's arrest came as the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten, said he was dedicated to finding out the truth about the scandal that has engulfed the corporation, vowing there would be "no covering our backs".
He also apologised "unreservedly" to abused women who spoke to a BBC Newsnight investigation into the abuse which was axed last year.
An inquiry into possible BBC management failures over the canning of the Newsnight programme has already begun under former head of Sky News Nick Pollard.
Dame Janet, who was appointed to the appeal court in 2002, led the Shipman Inquiry into the activities of serial killer GP Dr Harold Shipman which reported in 2005.
Mr Hogan Howe said it would be "a bit dangerous" to reveal exact numbers of living suspects in the case.
A small number of allegations not linked to Savile have been made in light of the publicity of the abuse scandal, most of which are linked to the entertainment industry.
Chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (Ceop) Peter Davies said he wanted to make sure that all possible lessons had been learned from the Savile case.
He said: "I won't be happy until I know for certain that all the lessons that can be learned from the Savile case have now been learned.
"It is a salutary warning for police practitioners of the need to keep on the alert and make sure that the many steps that have been put in place since the '70s and '80s actually are going to work as best they can.
"We are living in a different world to the 1970s in terms of our understanding of child sexual abuse and our tolerance of it."
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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