Sir Cliff Richard reflects on physical toll of Operation Yewtree false claims

The singer speaks about the impact of the false claims in a new Channel 4 documentary.

Sir Cliff Richard has said doctors warned him that a case of shingles he developed after being falsely accused of historical sex offences had the potential to blind him.

The singer, 81, describes the physical toll the allegations took on him in a new documentary, titled The Accused: National Treasures On Trial, due to air on Channel 4 on Wednesday night.

Alongside radio DJs Paul Gambaccini and Neil Fox, Sir Cliff was investigated but cleared as part of Operation Yewtree and one of its subsequent investigations, which were launched 10 years ago in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform campaign
Sir Cliff Richard will feature in Channel 4’s The Accused: National Treasures On Trial (Victoria Jones/PA)

In the documentary, he says: “I came out in shingles all over my head. Fortunately, a local doctor in Portugal diagnosed it. After about the third visit, he said it’s coming down your forehead, you don’t want to get it in your eyes because it can blind you.

“I said, ‘How do you get shingles?’ He just looked at me, gave a little tiny smile and said, ‘stress’.”

Sir Cliff was accused of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy during a religious rally at Sheffield United football club in 1985.

He denied the allegations and was never arrested, and in June 2016 prosecutors announced he would face no charges.

As part of the documentary, Sir Cliff recalls the aftermath of the allegations emerging.

He says: “You cannot stop thinking about it. Friends came (to Portugal) to visit and that was great, we laughed together, we played tennis together and then you go to bed. And then it all crowds back at you, how could someone do this? I am feeling hate, a violent hate towards him, what I’d do with him if I ever saw him, and I thought I can’t live like this …

“I seem to remember one headline that really bothered me and it just simply said ‘Sir Cliff molests underage boy’. Not allegedly. It’s a lie. I didn’t do that to a young boy …

“I prayed every night. I said he knows it’s not true, I know it’s not true and God knows it’s not true.”

Falsely Accused Individuals for Reform campaign
Sir Cliff, centre, and Paul Gambaccini, right, recently revived their campaign calling for suspects to have their anonymity protected by law unless charged (Victoria Jones/PA)

Sir Cliff also won a privacy case against the BBC over its coverage of a South Yorkshire Police raid on his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.

He said: “I felt bad about it, I said to the lawyers, how can I sue the BBC? It’s like suing Britain.

“But I thought to myself, these people need to learn that I’m serious about this, this was a very serious, nasty, harmful thing said about me.”

Since being cleared, Sir Cliff and Gambaccini have launched a campaign calling for suspects to have their anonymity protected by law unless they are charged.

The documentary will also reflect on the operation’s wider legacy through their eyes and the lasting impact it has had on the country’s values, attitudes and culture.

The Accused: National Treasures On Trial airs on Wednesday August 24 at 9pm on Channel 4 and All 4.