Cliff Richard rejects charges he sexually abused boy

Police search Berkshire property after claim dating to 1980s involving boy under 16

Cliff Richard performs on stage at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Police searched a property belonging to Sir Cliff on Thursday in relation to an alleged historical sex offence. Photograph: Ferdy Damman/EPA

Cliff Richard performs on stage at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Police searched a property belonging to Sir Cliff on Thursday in relation to an alleged historical sex offence. Photograph: Ferdy Damman/EPA

Thu, Aug 14, 2014, 22:33

Singer Cliff Richard has rejected charges that he sexually abused a boy backstage at an evangelical Christian concert hosted by Rev Billy Graham in the 1980s.

The 73-year-old singer, who is currently holidaying in Portugal, issued a statement hours after detectives from South Yorkshire Police searched an apartment he owns in Berkshire.

Saying he had been aware of the allegations for months, he went on: “Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.”

He said police had “attended” his £3.5 million apartment in a luxury complex seven miles from Heathrow “without notice, except it would appear to the press”.

Promising full co-operation, he went on: “Beyond stating that today’s allegation is completely false, it would not be appropriate to say anything further.”

The singer is said to have left his holiday home on the Algarve last Thursday and travelled to another part of Portugal with his sister, the BBC reported.

A man who was under 16 in 1985 has complained to police about an assault which he alleges took place at a concert compered by Rev Graham at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United.

Rev Billy Graham concert

The American evangelist held a week-long series of concerts at the football ground in late June that year, while Richard sang gospel songs when he appeared before 47,000 people on June 28th.

Det Supt Matt Fenwick said the investigation – which is not linked to Operation Yewtree, the inquiry investigating Jimmy Savile’s abuses – is in “its really early stages”.

“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 the police officer.

Eight plain-clothed police officers from South Yorkshire arrived at the apartment complex in Sunningdale in five unmarked cars in the late morning, leaving shortly after 3.30pm.

Born in India as Harry Webb, Richard was knighted in 1995, has been a star since he first appeared on stage in the 1950s, and has sold 250 million records.

His latest album, The Fabulous Rock ‘n’ Roll Songbook – the 100th of his career – was released last November, featuring cover versions of songs by Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry.

Buckingham Palace

He sang at the Diamond Jubilee concert outside Buckingham Palace to mark the queen’s 60th year on the throne in 2012, one of the many marks of royal favour he has received over the years. He performed at a charity fundraising concert on the Algarve earlier this month and, in June, made his usual appearance at the Wimbledon tennis championships.