Police missed several opportunities to detain prolific sexual predator Jimmy Savile as far back as the 1960s, according to a damming report.

An inquiry by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) showed that police forces across the UK mishandled evidence and unfairly dismissed complaints from victims.

The report, commissioned by Home Secretary Theresa May, revealed a number of failings by police. In one incident a male victim said he had been raped by Savile in 1963 but was told to "forget about it" and "move on" by a local police officer in Cheshire.

A second alleged victim went to a police station in London in 1963 to report that his girlfriend had been assaulted at a recording of the BBC television programme Top of the Pops. The report shows he was told by a Metropolitan Police officer that he "could be arrested for making such allegations" and sent away.

Eight incidents were catalogued in the HMIC report in which victims came forward to have their complaints dismissed by officers. There were also allegations made against forces in Merseyside and West Yorkshire and the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

The report was commissioned to discover how much police knew about Savile before his death in 2011. The former Jim'll Fix presenter was publicly exposed as one the UK's most prolific sex offenders a year after his death.

The police watchdog's report shows that five allegations of sexual assault were recorded against Savile during his lifetime along with two pieces of intelligence, compared to the 450 allegations made against him since the launch of Operation Yewtree in October.

Ledger by paedophile unit

The Met was first alerted to Savile's child sex offences in 1964 and he was entered into a ledger used by their paedophile unit, said the HMIC.

In 1998, the same force received an anonymous letter which urged police to "not let him get away" and claimed that the presenter's fundraising activities were a mask to hide the fact that he was also "a deeply committed paedophile". The letter added that Savile changed his Leeds telephone number because a young rent boy (male prostitute) was blackmailing him.

The letter added: "When Jimmy Savile falls, and sooner or later he will, a lot of well-known personalities and past politicians are going to fall with him. I have done my duty, my conscience is clear, you have the power, time, and resources at Scotland Yard to wheedle him out, and expose him for what he really is."

The report says: "In the light of what is now known, the 1998 MPS anonymous letter makes distressing reading. Its detail provided the police with an opportunity to pursue enquiries that might have confirmed its veracity."

Police marked the letter as "sensitive" because of Savile's celebrity status. The allegations it contained were never investigated and not shared with other police forces. The report criticises forces for not "joining the dots" and spotting patterns in relation to allegations against Savile.

Lessons to be Learned

A separate report by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in January revealed that Surrey and Sussex police forces both received allegations against Savile while he was alive, but did not act upon them.

The CPS report condemned their handling of four allegations against Savile involving girls in the 1970s. Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer has now put in place plans transform the way police and prosecutors deal with child sex abuse allegations in a bid to avoid "another Savile moment".

Theresa May said: "The public rightly want answers to how victims' voices were ignored for so long. This report brings into sharp focus police failings that allowed Savile to act with impunity over five decades.

"While we can never right this wrong, we must learn the lessons to prevent the same from ever happening again."

A spokesman for the Met said: "Although we are satisfied our officers followed the correct procedures in place at the time, HMIC have rightly highlighted the complexities of managing police information nationally.

"There is a balance to be struck around ensuring sensitive information can be retrieved by investigating officers without compromising an individual's privacy and we continue to develop processes to ensure this can happen."