Clarkson jokes about lorry drivers killing sex workers
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson has prompted more than 500 people to complain to the BBC about a joke he made on Sunday's motoring show.
Clarkson, 48, was taking part in a lorry-driving task, when he joked about lorry drivers killing sex workers.
"Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day," he said.
The BBC said the joke had made "ridiculous an unfair urban myth".
Forklift truck driver Steve Wright was jailed in February for killing five prostitutes in Ipswich.
Clarkson's joke, made before the watershed, has now sparked 517 complaints.
But a BBC spokesman said that by Monday morning - before the incident had been reported on by newspapers and websites - there had been 188 complaints.
Sunday's programme, which aired on BBC Two at 2000 GMT, was watched by around seven million viewers.
In a statement, the BBC said: "The vast majority of Top Gear viewers have clear expectations of Jeremy Clarkson's long-established and frequently provocative on-screen persona.
"This particular reference was used to comically exaggerate and make ridiculous an unfair urban myth about the world of lorry driving, and was not intended to cause offence."
The Iceni Project, a charity which had helped some of the murdered prostitutes in Ipswich, criticised Clarkson's remark.
Director Brian Tobin called the comment "highly distasteful and insensitive".
Mr Tobin said the joke was made around the anniversary of the women's deaths and it made him "cringe".
Last week, the BBC received more than 30,000 complaints about a series of phone pranks made by Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross on Radio 2.
Cari Mitchell, of English Collective of Prostitutes, meanwhile, said Clarkson's comments were "more serious than the Ross and Brand debacle" because he was "making light of murder".
"More than 60 women have been murdered who the police say are prostitutes in the last 10 years so it's an absolute disgrace," she said.
Clarkson should lose his job and "the people who allowed this programme to go out have to be brought to account," she added.
"I think it's a sacking offence to make light of the murder of anybody, never mind prostitute women who are vulnerable and criminalised."
But Clarkson's Top Gear co-presenter Richard Hammond told BBC Radio 1's Newsbeat: "Jeremy was just being Jeremy, just being himself and that's what people watch the show for, so why change it?"
He added: "He was just being Jeremy. People love that. That's what he was delivering."
Will Shiers, editor of Truck & Driver magazine said "a small number of drivers were offended by the murdering prostitute reference".
"On the whole, I thought the show was really entertaining.
"If anything it succeeded in demonstrating to car drivers just how difficult it is to drive a truck."
Media regulator watchdog Ofcom said it had also been contacted by viewers angry at the remarks.
A spokesman said: "We're looking at complaints we've received but we're not currently investigating the programme."