Shamed Peter Jaconelli’s family have broken their silence to talk of their shock over their relative’s secret life as a suspected sex offender.
His nephew Denis Jaconelli now admits the overwhelming evidence against Scarborough’s former mayor has made the family finally question his innocence.
North Yorkshire Police recently claimed that if Jaconelli and Jimmy Savile were alive, the pair would be arrested on suspicion of dozens of sex crimes against children – including rape.
“Peter Jaconelli is not here to defend himself, but we have to have confidence in what the police are saying - it is shocking and traumatic,” admitted 63-year-old Denis, speaking on behalf of the family.
“But the police have not taken this lightly. They have spent time on an investigation and interviewed a lot of people.”
In previous years, the Jaconelli family said the allegations were either not true or that they did not know anything about it.
But the 10-month long police inquiry revealed the extent of Jaconelli’s suspected abuse, with the ice cream magnate thought to have abused at least 35 victims over the course of four decades.
Denis added “a lot of water had passed under the bridge” since the family’s initial denial of what an abuse charity said was “Scarborough’s worst kept secret”.
“We are family people ourselves and abhor anything like this,” he said.
“Peter was always a bit of a joke figure because of his size and weight.
“The staff would laugh at him but he would take it well because he had a good sense of humour.
“If he did do anything like this it would be despicable, but it was certainly not obvious to us.”
However, sources with ties close to Peter Jaconelli’s old seafront parlour claim his abuse was obvious to many in the town.
And Ian Shimmin from the Scarborough abuse charity Hope added: “Everyone who lived in Scarborough at the time knew Jaconelli was a serial abuser.”
He added that his vulnerable victims would be paid cash by the obese judo expert in exchange for seedy favours.
“They called it ‘tapping up fat Jac’, added Mr Shimmin, who claims members of a paedophile ring, headed by Jaconelli and Savile, are still at large.
But Denis said that the Peter Jaconelli the family knew was just a “very generous man”, adding: “If (abuse) did happen, it was well covered up.”
Yet while no evidence of a cover-up has come to light, North Yorkshire Police apologised after admitting it was told about abuse by Savile and Jaconelli three decades ago – and decided to do nothing about it.
Instead, with the police allowing them to slip through the force’s net, the mistake is thought to have allowed them to continue abusing in the town for at least another decade.
And Dennis has now admitted that as youngsters, members of the family did hear whisperings of their uncle’s sordid ways – and were targeted at school as a result.
“There were always rumours,” said Denis.
“When we were young boys going to school we had to put up with them and it was difficult to cope with.
“But at the time, it was all innuendo. There was never any proof. We were aware he was friends with Jimmy Savile. But we thought it was very much on a showbiz level.”
He underlined the ice cream business today had no connection with Peter Jaconelli.
It is a now a wholesale business built up after his death and the shop which bears the Jaconelli name on Scarborough seafront is separately owned.
Other members of the family said they had nothing to add to what Denis Jaconelli has said.