Channel NewsAsia

Cliff Richard denies sex crime after UK police search

Veteran British singer Cliff Richard on Thursday (Aug 14) strongly denied allegations of sexual impropriety after police investigating an historic claim of abuse against a boy searched one of his properties.

LONDON: Veteran British singer Cliff Richard on Thursday (Aug 14) strongly denied allegations of sexual impropriety after police investigating an historic claim of abuse against a boy searched one of his properties.

The 73-year-old, a pop star since the 1950s who won fame with songs such as "Devil Woman" and "Living Doll", said the allegations were "completely false".

Richard was not present when police officers conducted a five-hour search of his apartment in a luxury gated community in the village of Sunningdale, in Berkshire, southern England.

"A search warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time," said a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police. "No one has been arrested and the owner of the property was not present."

Police later said the investigation was in its "really early stages", adding that a "number of items" had been removed from the property for further investigation.

Richard has sold more than 250 million records over his career and is nicknamed the Peter Pan of Pop for his enduring youthful looks. A committed Christian who shunned the sex, drugs and alcohol lifestyle, Richard in 1995 became the first British rock star to be knighted. He has had number one singles in five decades from the 1950s onwards and is regarded as a British institution.

'FALSE ALLEGATIONS'

Richard is reportedly currently in Portugal, where he also has a home, but said he would "co-operate fully" with the investigation. "For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false," the singer said.

"Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen. However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press."

He added: "I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me. Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false, it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded."

The singer was born Harry Webb in Lucknow, northern India, on October 14, 1940. Cliff Richard and The Shadows were a landmark act in early British rock and roll, and Richard became a sex symbol, dubbed England's answer to Elvis Presley.

His fanbase has largely aged with him but he continues to perform and record music. In 2012, Richard played a medley of his greatest hits at Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee concert, including "The Young Ones" and "We Don't Talk Anymore".

The police search was not connected to Operation Yewtree, the investigation launched by London's Scotland Yard police force into late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and others. However the publicity surrounding the abuse of children by Savile, who died aged 84 in October 2011, has led to a surge in allegations of historic sex abuse.

The Australian-born children's entertainer Rolf Harris, 84, was found guilty on June 30 of 12 indecent assaults against four girls, including an eight-year-old autograph hunter and a close friend of his daughter. Harris, who had been a fixture on British television for decades, was jailed for five years and nine months for the offences, which took place between 1968 and 1986.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia