The first meeting between Sue Hymns and Jimmy Savile is recorded faithfully in her diary, dated September 23, 1968.
‘Saw Jimmy Savile at the hospital,’ the entry reads. ‘Met him again at 5.15pm and he gave me a lift to the bus stop in his taxi.’
Back then, Sue was a stunningly pretty 18-year-old on her way to a doctor’s appointment at Leeds General Infirmary, while Savile — thanks to his role as presenter of Top Of The Tops — was Britain’s most famous DJ.Final embrace: Sir Jimmy Savile and Sue Hymns' last date at their favourite pizza restaurant, two months before his death at the age of 84
But on the day in question, Savile was doing a shift as a volunteer porter at the city’s hospital — part of the charitable works that were already as much a feature of his life as the platinum hair, the eccentric outfits and cigars.
The first words he ever spoke to her were: ‘Now then, now then.’ Yes, really.
As chat-up lines go, it may not have been the most seductive. But that chance meeting led to a relationship that was to last, on and off, right up until Savile’s death in October aged 84.
A relationship which Sue describes as being as close as any marriage, yet which remained hidden from all but the star’s dearest friends.
Widely regarded as perennially single, Savile would bat away questions about his private life.
While he would often speak movingly of his relationship with his late mother, Agnes — whom he called ‘the Duchess’ — there was never any mention of a girlfriend, leading to much cruel speculation about his sexuality.
It is to lay such gossip to rest that Sue has taken the decision — after being tracked down by the Daily Mail — to break her 43-year silence and tell, for first time, the moving story of her romance with ‘Jim’, as she called him.
After much soul-searching, she has concluded that it would serve Savile’s memory better to ‘set the record straight’ rather than allow unkind rumour to tarnish his memory.
Indeed, she is still astonished they managed to keep the relationship secret for so long, especially in the later years.
For while she and Savile drifted apart in the Seventies, during which Sue embarked on an ill-fated marriage and had a daughter, their relationship intensified in 1991 and they remained a couple — albeit an unconventional one — to the end.
‘The funny thing is that Jim and I went out and about in Leeds all the time and must have been photographed hundreds of times by fans,’ Sue says.
‘Everyone had this idea that Jim was single, and they must have thought I was his secretary or something. Sometimes people would ask who I was and Jim would say: “Oh, this is Sue, she’s my cleaner.”
‘Our relationship was private for so long — Jim didn’t feel the need to advertise it to the wider world — but so much rubbish has been said about him that I think people should know the truth.
'Our relationship was unconventional, but it lasted longer than many marriages’.
When we meet at Sue’s immaculate flat in South-West London, the evidence of their mutual affection is plain to see. Photographs of her and Jim together over the years adorn the walls: a faded shot of them in a Leeds caf?, not long after they met; another dressed up together for a Lord Mayor’s banquet.
The final one, at their favourite restaurant, The Flying Pizza in Leeds, was taken just two months before he died.
Now an elegant 61-year-old, Sue works as a PA at a health company. Still strikingly attractive, it is easy to see why Savile was attracted to her all those years ago.
Recalling that first encounter, she says: ‘I saw him and thought: “Oh my God, it’s Jimmy Savile, please don’t talk to me.” I was only 18 then, and he was so famous.
‘He did his “now then, now then” routine — Jim never said hello — and I tried to think of something to say. I mentioned a friend called Ray whom I knew Jim had taught to DJ, and Jim replied: “Let’s not talk about Ray; let’s talk about you.”’'Jim had decided early on that because of his showbiz lifestyle, marriage and children would never work,' said Sue (pictured above in 1969)
A few weeks later, they met up at the InTime nightclub in Leeds, and Savile dropped Sue home. More dates followed and, little by little, despite the 23-year age gap, they grew closer.
‘Our first dates were in Leeds, dinner at The Queens hotel,’ recalls Sue.
‘Because of who he was, I felt rather nervous in the beginning.
‘In public, he was gregarious, but the real Jim was a serious man, quite intense, quite a philosopher.
‘In 43 years of knowing him, I never once heard him talk about music. But he had tremendous charisma and I found him very intriguing. It was a very carefree, exciting time.’
The romance developed into a full, physical relationship and over the next couple of years, Sue and Jim saw each other regularly, meeting up at a caf? opposite Leeds General Infirmary, or in London when Savile had filming commitments.
‘When he did Top Of The Pops, I would meet Jim in London for the show and then we would spend the night at a hotel — nothing too swanky. Jim was always careful with money.’
If he was never open about their relationship, he didn’t hide Sue away, either.
Once, Savile was invited to open new offices for the Yorkshire Evening Post and persuaded Sue to go with him and pose alongside him wearing a mini skirt and boots.
‘I think he even had his hand up my skirt,’ she says, laughing at the memory.
That first phase of their relationship came to an end in 1970, when Sue moved to Munich, where her sister was living with her husband.
Three years later, Sue moved to London and met her husband, an advertising executive, whom she married in 1975. They had a daughter, Lindsay, now 35, but divorced in 1983.
‘We weren’t compatible and grew apart,’ Sue says.
Single again, she moved back to Leeds and had a four-year relationship with a mill owner. She often thought of Savile, but it was not until 1991 that she bumped into him in a restaurant — and they soon resumed their romance.
They would remain ‘an item’ until Savile’s death five weeks ago. Though they never lived together, they spent many happy times together and kept in close contact even when Jim’s work commitments took him away from Leeds.
‘We saw each other three times a week when he was in town, and would speak on the phone when he was away. I worked full-time as a PA, so we didn’t meet during the day, but we’d go out in the evenings.
‘I would go to his flat at about 7pm so we could have a proper chat before we went out and he became “Jimmy Savile the showman”. When we were alone, he was affectionate and tactile, but not so much when we were out. It was like being with two different people.
‘But in a way it was like a marriage. We went so far back that Jim could be himself with me.’
If others inquired about their relationship, Jim would bat away the question with a joke. Once, at a charity function, they met Coronation Street actress Liz Dawn, who politely asked Savile who his companion was.
‘He said: “Oh, this is Sue. I found her in the street one day, homeless.”’
‘She looked at me and said: “Oh love, oh you poor darling.”’
While some women may have resented being kept in the shadows, Sue says it never bothered her. Even so, did she not harbour hopes that they would move in together — marry, even?
‘Jim had decided early on that because of his showbiz lifestyle, marriage and children would never work,’ she explains.
‘But our relationship this time round moved on to a more mature level.’
Besides, she says, the arrangement suited her.
‘I had my daughter and didn’t want another man moving in, although Jim got on very well with Lindsay and came to her 18th birthday party.’
And so their relationship continued — together but apart — with Sue making regular visits to Savile’s penthouse flat in Leeds.
‘The lift went right up to the penthouse,’ she says. ‘I’d get out of the lift and he’d be standing there in his dressing gown and he’d say: “I have purposely kept my dressing gown on to see what you are wearing so we can colour co-ordinate”.
‘Jim often had friends over, people from Leeds he’d known all his life, and we would sit round chatting, having a drink, though Jim didn’t drink until 1997, when he had a quadruple heart bypass operation and was advised by his doctor to drink one glass of wine a day.
‘He lived on toast most of the time.
'He was frugal and would use tea bags three times. When we went to restaurants we always got a doggy bag for leftovers.’
He was certainly not one for romantic gestures, either.
‘He never bought me anything,’ says Sue, ‘but he always paid for dinner and used to top up my car with petrol. I said to him once: “You don’t like spending money, do you?” And he said: “No, I like saving it.”
‘I didn’t buy him presents, either, though I did loan him my exercise bike, which he kept.’
Contrary to the perception of Savile being a recluse, Sue says he had hundreds of friends — it’s just he grouped them into ‘boxes’.
One ‘box’ comprised his friends in Glencoe, Scotland, where he had a cottage. Another was made up of friends in Scarborough, his favourite seaside town.
He also had a small circle in London, where he owned a flat near Regent’s Park. Then there was the friends through his TV and charity work. Sue was part of the Leeds set; and when he spent time with his other ‘boxes’, she didn’t ask questions about who he was with.
‘There may have been other women — I didn’t ask,’ she shrugs.
If it sounds a curious arrangement, Sue says that while she found the relationship with Savile physically fulfilling, she had long given up trying to discuss ‘feelings’.
‘Jim did have emotions, but he couldn’t show them. If I said to him: “I’ve missed you,” he’d reply: “Come on, it’s me you’re talking to.”’
Even so, she says that as the years wore on, she did miss aspects of more conventional relationships.
‘He wouldn’t go to the cinema or theatre, and he always went on cruises alone or with a couple of the men from the Leeds crowd.
‘Jim had this idea that being a DJ and television presenter meant he had to give the impression of being single. He was doing it right to the end, flirting with women, kissing their hands. I’d be thinking: “Come on Jim, you’re 80!” But as he got older there’d be times when he would show his feelings. I think he needed more.’
He was upset when Sue moved to London, seven years ago, to be nearer her daughter and two grandchildren, making it harder for her and Savile to be together.
‘Jim was grumpy about it. I think if he had asked me not to go, I wouldn’t have, but he couldn’t say it. But he did say to a friend once: “You know she left me? I would never have left her.” That upset me.
‘But we got back into a routine of me going up to Leeds once or twice a month, and after that he became more affectionate. ’
Their last date together was in late August, when they went for dinner at their favourite pizza restaurant in Leeds. By then, Savile was in poor health.
‘When I walked into the flat he gave a little sigh and said: “Oh, you’re back at last.” He was very slow, he had little energy.’
The following month, Savile fell ill with pneumonia and spent ten days in hospital. Sue spoke to the ward sister every day but was reassured that Jim was getting better, so she didn’t rush up.
‘When he came out of hospital, we agreed I would go up to see him when he was feeling well again — he really hated anyone seeing him when he was poorly.’
Sadly, on Saturday, October 29, two days before his 85th birthday, Savile passed away. Sue learned of his death by text. ‘I was out shopping with a friend and had just said: “I must call Jim when I get home”, when I received a text message from a friend saying he’d been found dead at the flat.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I bought the papers the next morning and he was on the front pages, and I just thought: “Oh no, that’s my Jim”, and I cried.’
Sue travelled to Leeds on the Monday, Savile’s birthday, where she was one of the few close friends allowed to see Savile’s partially open coffin when his body was lying ‘in state’ at The Queens hotel.
‘I wasn’t sure whether to go, but I’m glad I did, that I saw him one last time,’ she says.
And she was there, of course, at his funeral at St Anne’s Cathedral.
‘I remember being in the cathedral and not connecting this big event to my Jim. I’m still struggling to take in the fact that he’s gone. I haven’t grieved properly yet.
‘Jim was a kind, loyal and principled man. He never took, he only gave. He was never miserable, and if he was unwell, he wouldn’t show it. He really was a one-off.’
In her darker moments, Sue has been comforted by an exchange she and Savile had on their last evening together at their favourite restaurant.
‘A member of staff had offered to take our picture. She joked: “Look lovingly at each other.” and Jim said quietly to me: “I don’t know what it would be like to be loved.”
‘I hesitated, but then I said: “Well, I love you.” And he replied: “Yeah, I know you do.”
‘That is so important to me that I did that. You know, I’m sure he set me up to say it. In all the years we had together, he’d never let me tell him I loved him.