Cliff Richard: police drop one of three inquires, claims friend
Singer reportedly provided police with key evidence to disprove two claims of historic sex abuse
Police have dropped one of the three investigations into alleged sex abuse by Sir Cliff Richard, according to reports.
The singer provided the police with evidence that he was never alone on the days when two men allege he attacked them in separate incidents in the 1980s, an unnamed friend told The Sunday Times.
The evidence appears to refute claims that Richard assaulted a 15-year-old at a Billy Graham rally in Sheffield in 1985 and another alleged victim who said he took part in the making of a music video with the star in 1981.
Richard, who has not been arrested or charged, is yet to comment, while South Yorkshire Police said it "won't be providing a running commentary on the investigation". The force added that "the inquiry continues and inquiries are ongoing".
The singer's home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was searched by police in August last year while he was away in Portugal, with footage of the raid broadcast live on the BBC.
The Sunday Times points out that seven celebrities, including Freddie Starr and Paul Gambaccini, have been exonerated after facing historical abuse accusations under the overarching police inquiry Operation Yewtree.
The singer, who has vehemently denied the claims and called them "absurd", is preparing for a UK concert tour to mark his 75th birthday culminating in five nights at the Royal Albert Hall.
Cliff Richard to sell homes searched by Yewtree police
Sir Cliff Richard has put his Berkshire home on the market for £4.75 million, nine months after police were filmed searching the property in connection to an allegation of sexual assault.
The 74 year-old star watched from his holiday home in the Algarve as South Yorkshire police entered the mansion where he has lived since 2008, while BBC helicopters provided rolling coverage of the raid.
Cilla Black, a long-term friend of Richard, said that the experience has left him haunted and unable to continue living in the house.
"It's the saddest thing for him, but he had to do it," Black, 71, told the Daily Telegraph. "Cliff is not all right, not at all. He will never, ever go back there again. I don't blame him."
The search was carried out in conjunction with an allegation that the singer sexually assaulted a 16-year-old boy at a Christian rally organised by the American evangelical Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985. Richard denies any involvement.
South Yorkshire police came under fire over the controversial deal with the BBC, which allowed the broadcaster to film the search as it took place. In return, the BBC agreed to hold back a news item revealing that an allegation of historic sex abuse by Richard was being investigated as part of Operation Yewtree until after the raid.
In defence of the arrangement, the force claimed that it feared that crucial evidence might be compromised or lost if the allegation was made public before the police search could be carried out.
Nevertheless, a report compiled by former chief constable Andy Trotter questioned the justification for the deal, saying that it was unlikely that the BBC would have run such a story without police co-operation. Trotter also found that the force had caused 'unnecessary distress' to Richard and that the star 'should not have been informed of the allegations through the media'.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the inquiry surrounding the former rock and roll star had increased "significantly" and now involved multiple allegations. Richard has been interviewed by police, but no formal charges have been brought against him. He continues to maintain that any accusations of sexual misconduct are "absurd and untrue".
Cliff Richard investigation has 'increased significantly in size'
The sex abuse investigation into Sir Cliff Richard has "increased significantly in size" and now involves more than one allegation, according to the chief constable of South Yorkshire Police.
Officers searched the 74-year-old's Berkshire home last August following an allegation of sexual assault on a young boy at a Christian rally in 1985 in Sheffield.
Sir Cliff was later interviewed under caution, but not charged, while South Yorkshire Police and the BBC came under fire after the raid was broadcast live on television.
The force's chief constable David Crompton was called before the Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz to explain how reporters came to know about the investigation.
Responding to a request from Vaz for an update into the progress of the inquiry, Crompton said that it had now expanded.
In a letter, dated 10 February, he wrote: "This is an investigation which has increased significantly in size since its inception. Sir Cliff Richard's lawyers are aware that there is more than one allegation."
He added that the force was in regular contact with Sir Cliff's lawyers.
"In view of the expanding nature of the investigation, it would be premature and potentially misleading to predict a likely date when it will be concluded. However, we are progressing as swiftly as possible," said Crompton.
An independent report concluded this week that South Yorkshire Police should not have released "highly confidential" details about the search, reports The Times.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Sir Cliff said he had "no idea" where the "absurd and untrue" allegations had come from.
"I have never, in my life, assaulted anyone and I remain confident that the truth will prevail. I have cooperated fully with the police, and will, of course, continue to do so," he said.
"Beyond stating that the allegations are completely false, it would not be appropriate for me to say anything further until the investigation has concluded, which I hope will be very soon. In the meantime, I would, again, like to thank everyone for supporting me through this unbelievably difficult period."
Cliff Richard pulls out of charity concert in wake of allegation
Sir Cliff Richard has cancelled a performance at Canterbury Cathedral next month after a sexual assault allegation against him was made public.
Sir Cliff was due to perform on 26 September but has withdrawn from the fundraising event because he did not want the event to be "overshadowed by the false allegation", said his spokesman.
He added that the singer was "sorry for any disappointment or inconvenience caused".
The 73-year-old, who remains at his property on the Algarve, has hired the high-profile lawyer Ian Burton, who has represented football manager Harry Redknapp, who was cleared of tax evasion, and Max Clifford, who was jailed for sex offences.
Several celebrities have spoken out in defence of Sir Cliff. Former TV presenter Cilla Black said this week: "I, like everyone else, was very shocked to hear of these allegations and I am absolutely positive that they are without foundation."
Police searched Sir Cliff's Berkshire home last week as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a Christian rally in 1985 in Sheffield. The BBC's live coverage of the raid prompted 480 complaints to the broadcaster, as well as allegations of a witch hunt and questions about whether the singer should have been identified.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, the former director of public prosecutions, has told The Times that the raid might even be illegal because police failed to tell a magistrates court about its deal with the media. However, a spokeswoman for South Yorkshire Police said it was "not common practice" to inform the court of any media involvement.
Tony Hall, BBC director general, and David Crompton, chief constable of South Yorkshire Police, will be summoned before MPs on the Home Affairs Select Committee to explain how the corporation knew in advance that Sir Cliff's home was to be searched.
A BBC spokesman has said the corporation "does not name its sources nor is it appropriate to go into detail around editorial processes".
Cliff Richard raid: a BBC 'witch hunt' or a fair scoop?
The BBC's coverage of the sex abuse allegation against Sir Cliff Richard has sparked a fierce debate about a suspect's right to anonymity and the relationship between the media and police.
Sir Cliff was said to be "furious" that the press knew about a police raid on his Berkshire home before he did, with a BBC helicopter circling the singer's house on Thursday morning as officers arrived.
South Yorkshire Police initially thanked the media for publicising the case after more people subsequently contacted the police with information. But it later clarified that it had not leaked news of the investigation itself. It said that a BBC reporter had made clear that he already knew about the investigation and was in a position to publish it.
"The force was reluctant to cooperate but felt that to do otherwise would risk losing any potential evidence, so in the interests of the investigation it was agreed that the reporter would be notified of the date of the house search in return for delaying publication of any of the facts," said a police spokesman.
The BBC insists it followed "normal journalistic practice" and has confirmed that its original source for the information was not South Yorkshire Police.
But Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Telegraph that the BBC's tactics were tantamount to "blackmail" and called for an external inquiry to find out what happened. "This is shocking behaviour by a publicly funded national broadcaster," he said.
The Week's Robert Chesshyre describes the revelation of the police investigation as a "shambles" and says it "raises renewed concerns about relations between the media and the police".
Human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC described the way the police search was conducted as "unacceptable". Writing in The Independent, he said that by treating Sir Cliff as though he were a "bank robber or mass murderer" the police and BBC have "blasted his reputation around the world without giving him the first and most basic right to refute the allegation".
Presenter Michael Parkinson branded the investigation a "witch hunt" and told ITV News that he believed neither the police nor the newspapers should name anybody who is not yet charged.
Dominic Ponsford, the editor of Press Gazette, appears to be one of the few people publicly praising the BBC for getting the scoop on a story that he says was "inevitably" going to come out in the press.
"As we know from Rolf Harris and others, publicity around a case can lead to more witnesses coming forward," says Ponsford. "It is tough on Richard to face the taint of this sort of coverage when he has not even been questioned yet himself. But once the police had undertaken such a big raid on his home, what is going on becomes a matter of public record. The facts are the facts."