A string of top BBC executives have denied ever hearing talk about Jimmy Savile’s sex abuse crimes, despite Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman claiming they were “common gossip”.

Both former director general Mark Thompson and director of news Helen Boaden were among those who told a BBC internal inquiry that they had never heard any rumours about the DJ and TV presenter.

The details were featured in thousands of pages of evidence gathered by former Sky News executive Nick Pollard, which was set up last year to investigate the scandal which erupted following Newsnight’s shelving of its Savile investigation in December 2011.

The revelations which later emerged sparked a major criminal investigation, with police uncovering decades of what they described as ‘predatory’ sex crimes committed by Savile.

Mr Paxman said the BBC’s decision to drop its investigation was “almost as contemptible” as the corporation’s behvaiour during Savile’s years as one of its big name stars.

“It was, I would say common gossip, that Jimmy Savile liked, you know, young – it was always assumed to be girls,” he said. “I had no evidence. But it was common gossip, I think.”

Mark Thompson, who spent almost three decades at the BBC, said during the inquiry that he and Savile had never crossed paths. “I had never heard any rumours at all, if you like of a dark side of any kind, sexual or otherwise about Jimmy Savile,” he admitted.

Ms Boaden, meanwhile, said she had not heard any “dark rumours” and had only ever met the presenter once, briefly, when they both attended a lunch in honour of veteran DJs.

“He came to the lunch, he kissed my hand at the beginning, he kissed my hand at the end, he said not a word to me between those events,” she recalled.

The evidence collated by Mr Pollard has been released in its entirety for the first time, with almost 3,000 pages worth of interview transcripts and emails featuring more than 19 witnesses from the BBC.