UK News

Cliff Richard feared he ‘would die' over police sex probe stress

Cliff Richard playing to a full house in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. The veteran pop star says untrue, but widely publicised sex allegations against him almost brought him to death's door
Ryan Wilkinson, Press Association

CLIFF Richard was left fearing he would die as a result of the stress of being publicly named as a suspect of sex crimes he did not commit.

The singer, (75), said he was left physically and emotionally exhausted by a two-year ordeal that began when South Yorkshire Police raided his home live on the BBC after an apparent tip-off.

Sir Cliff told the Daily Mail he is now undergoing medical tests to establish if he has suffered any long-lasting ill effects from the strain.

Describing one episode the day after the police search – referred to by him as "the break-in" – the famously keen tennis player told how he was taken ill on the court.

He said: "I went ahead, but I could hardly lift my arm up. I was told: 'Just take it gently', but I couldn't do that either.

"I couldn't understand what was happening to me. I thought I was going to die."

The veteran entertainer was at his farm and vineyard in Portugal in August 2014 when he received a call saying police officers had a warrant to search his Berkshire apartment.

However, he was unaware of what he had been accused of until coverage of the raid appeared on BBC News.

He told the newspaper: "That was my introduction to what they were doing and how it looked on the screen. It was really terrifying, really horrible, and of course that's when I discovered what I was supposedly accused of."

The singer who became famous in the 1950s, performing with The Drifters, described how the following day, with the media outside his home, he collapsed.

"I didn't know how I could face the future or face my friends or face my family. I was in tears, I have to admit," he said.

"I was on my knees in tears in the kitchen. I was thinking: "How can I get out of this? How can I ever climb out of this hole?"

"Somebody got me to my feet and said: 'You've got to stand up, you are not guilty, hold your head up, you can do it.'"

Singer Sir Cliff Richard in 1963. Picture by Press Association 

The case against Sir Cliff was dropped earlier this month after a review of the evidence by the Crown Prosecution Service.

South Yorkshire Police have since apologised over their handling of the investigation, during which Sir Cliff said he felt like he was being used as "live bait" for accusers with spurious claims.

He called on the BBC to follow the police for what he described to the Daily Mail as "shameful" treatment.

On Tuesday evening the BBC has apologised for the distress caused to Sir Cliff.

In a statement, the corporation said it "applied normal editorial judgments" to covering the story, but added: "The BBC is very sorry that Sir Cliff Richard, who has worked as a musician and performer for so many years with the organisation, has suffered distress.

"The BBC's responsibility is to report fully stories that are in the public interest. Police investigations into prominent figures in public life are, of course, squarely in the public interest, which is why they have been reported by all news organisations in this country.

"Once the South Yorkshire Police had confirmed the investigation and Sir Cliff Richard's identity and informed the BBC of the timing and details of the search of his property, it would neither have been editorially responsible nor in the public interest to choose not to report fully the investigation into Sir Cliff Richard because of his public profile.

"The BBC, at every stage, reported Sir Cliff's full denial of the allegations.

"The BBC, therefore, stands by the decision to report the investigation undertaken by the South Yorkshire Police and the search of his property."

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