Ex-BBC DJ Travis cleared of sex offenses

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[February 14, 2014]  By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) Dave Lee Travis, one of Britain's best-known radio DJs in the 1970s and 1980s who counted Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi among his fans, was cleared on Thursday of a string of sexual offenses against women over three decades.

The 68-year-old former BBC Radio 1 DJ was the first ageing celebrity to go on trial as a direct result of an investigation launched after police revealed that the late Jimmy Savile, one of the BBC's top TV presenters, had been a prolific child sex offender.

Travis, who appeared on a weekly television music show at the height of his fame, had been accused of 14 charges involving 11 women between 1976 and 2008.

The jury at the London court cleared him of 12 offenses but was unable to reach a verdict on one charge of indecent assault and one of sexual assault. Prosecutors were given a week to decide whether to seek a retrial.

"I'm not over the moon about any of this today. I don't feel like there's a victory in any way, shape or form," Travis told reporters outside court. He said he had been through a year-and-a-half of hell, lost his reputation and had been forced to sell his house to fight the charges.

The trial was told that Travis, nicknamed DLT, or the "Hairy Cornflake" for his bushy beard, had preyed on women at the BBC's central London headquarters, at corporate events, and at a Christmas pantomime.

The jury had been told Travis had groped the breasts of a BBC employee while she was introducing a radio program, and heard he had indecently assaulted another woman in 1978 during filming for the "Top of the Pops" weekly television music program when she was teenager.

But Travis, whose real name is David Patrick Griffin, had denied all the accusations, describing himself as a "big, hairy, cuddly bear" who was tactile but not a sexual predator. He accused the women of making up the claims to make money.

Among his fans was Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, who singled out his weekly show on the BBC World Service for making her world "much more complete" during her 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010.

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Travis is one of a number of ageing British stars to have faced criminal charges after London police launched "Operation Yewtree" in the wake of the 2011 death of Savile, one of Britain's biggest TV stars in the 1970s and 1980s.

Detectives said hundreds of people had contacted them with allegations about famous figures after revealing that Savile had sexually assaulted some 300 victims, mainly children, at BBC premises and hospitals over six decades of abuse.

Critics have asked why the BBC and police failed to take action years ago, but some commentators have also voiced concern the investigation had become a "witch-hunt" against high-profile figures of the past.

"I have had one trial by media and one trial by crown court. And I have to say in all honesty that I prefer trial by the crown court," Travis said.

Further well-known figures are due to go on trial later this year including celebrity publicist Max Clifford and British-based Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, 83, a family favorite for more than 50 years.

Last week, actor William Roache, the world's longest-serving TV soap actor who has starred in "Coronation Street" since its launch in 1960, was cleared of historic rape and indecent assault charges, although the charges were not directly connected to the Operation Yewtree inquiry.

In May last year, veteran BBC broadcaster Stuart Hall admitted 14 counts of indecent assault on young girls, and has since been charged with 15 further allegations of rape.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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