Esther Rantzen opens up about her late husband & Jimmy Savile on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories

by Lisa McGarry


Esther Rantzen has said that she would rather have ten minutes more with her late husband, Desmond, than live the next ten years.

In an interview with Piers Morgan to be screened on ITV tonight Esther also hinted that she has started dating again.

The TV presenter also said that she is angry that critics have cast aspersions suggesting she and her BBC colleagues must have known more than they were letting on about Jimmy Savile abusing children.

She added that she had ‘no evidence’ that Savile was abusing children and that she would have taken action, had she known.

Talking about her relationship with Desmond Wilcox, who she met when he was still married to someone else, Esther said that she regrets their affair but not their marriage. She told Piers the pair adored each other, and Desi’s last words to her were that he adored her.

Talking about when they got together, Esther said: “It was disastrous really, from the point of view of Patsy and the three children. It was disastrous and if I could have not fallen in love with Desmond, and I tried not to, and we both tried not to. In those eight years we tried to separate and we tried not to get together, but the fact was that he dazzled me when we first met.

“He was compassionate, humorous, immensely talented. He was, above all, loving. He loved his family, his whole family. He didn’t want to cause any pain either. So that when I say I deeply regret what happened, I cannot regret the marriage that we had together and the family we had together because we adored each other.”

She added: “Desmond’s last words to me were, ‘I adore you.’ I was sitting on his deathbed. I will take those words with me to the grave. I said to my son last night, ‘If God gave me the choice between ten more years of life and ten more minutes with Desi, I would pick those ten minutes.’

Since Desi’s death, Esther said it is the happy times where she misses him the most.

She said: “I find now the most difficult times are the happy times. If I go somewhere new and maybe there’s a bay with little ships bobbing in the water and the sun going down, those were the things that he took a real delight in. he always dreamed that he would have a little boat and go out sailing with me. And I find it really, really difficult. The tough times, the painful times, you just put your head down and you cope. Someone said to my mum, ‘How’s Esther coping?’ and my mum said, ‘Esther copes because she has to cope.’ And that’s what you do. But it’s those lovely times that you want to share.

“When Becca got married, when Becca’s baby was born. Desi would so love to have been there.”

Piers asked: “If you’ve gone through such a passion with somebody, do you fear that you could never have anything even remotely like it, again? Do you want to have anything like it again?”

Esther: “It would be lovely to have a loving friend who I could share experiences like travel and so on with. I would love that. But there is a reality in what you say, and I don’t know what I’ve got to give. They always say never say never, and I believe in love. I think love is wonderful and inspiring and empowering and it makes you achieve things you didn’t think possible…and you walk with a spring in your step and the sun shines brightly. It’s a lovely place to be and I don’t know whether that is possible for me in the future, I just don’t know.”

Piers: “Have you been on any dates? How did you find them?”

Esther: “Nothing ever changes. You think that those embarrassing moments that you had when you were 16 and 17, surely when you’re 60 or 70, they can’t come back, you’re too mature, you’re too sophisticated. They do.

“I think my worst experience was at the end of a very nice evening with a charming man, and we were saying goodnight in my kitchen…and I proffered my cheek and he grabbed my chin and turned my head and plonked a kiss on my lips. Wrong. Never do that. If she turns her head, that’s fine. If she hasn’t turned her head, that will never do. I never saw him again. I scarpered, if truth be told. I just ran round and round the kitchen island. I tell you, nothing changes, it was just like when I was 16 or 17.”

Piers: “Will you come close to finding someone else, do you think?”

Esther: “Ask me again in a year’s time.”

Piers: “So there is somebody?”

Esther: “Erm.”

Piers: “There’s a flicker? Who is this flicker?”

Esther: “Well, he’s a very clever distinguished man.”

Talking about Jimmy Savile, Esther said: “Back in the seventies, when I was a very young, new researcher, somebody had told me a rumour that Savile liked young girls and I remember hearing it, not taking it seriously. We’d heard rumours about the royal family, politicians, people appearing on television, you know how the rumours come and go about almost everyone in public life, and most of them are malicious and nearly all of them are untrue.

“He was an icon. Knighted by the Queen, knighted by the Pope, you know, every honour you can imagine and that was the edifice that he constructed. And, we as viewers, we as crowds, helped him construct it. We went along with this mythology, understandably, because there was no evidence that we had heard up to that stage, from anyone who had been abused or had witnessed abuse.

“So when I took part in the ITV documentary Exposure, and when I heard those five women simply telling their story, it was like a dagger in my heart that we, as a nation had allowed them to suffer and then to be silenced for so many years.

“And I think that’s what, in a way, we all felt, in a sense as the public.”

Piers: “This is not aimed at you, but you know that the critics from outside the BBC is that somebody there must have known a lot more than they’re letting on. Not saying you, but obviously because of your ChildLine presence and the stuff you were doing, people are saying, ‘How can no-one, not even Esther Rantzen or anybody, have spotted this guy, given that now, he looks to have been one of the worse serial paedophiles in the history of the country?’”

Esther added: “As far as I was concerned I had absolutely no evidence and if I’d had any evidence, if anyone had told me anything that I could have acted upon, I would have acted upon it, because that’s what I do, day in, day out, still.”

Piers: ‘Are you angry that people would cast aspersions?”

Esther: “I am very angry. I think protecting children from avoidable pain is the most important thing you can do. That’s why I launched ChildLine.”