Former celebrity publicist Max Clifford (74) dies after collapsing in prison

Clifford, who was serving a sentence for sex offences, died in hospital on Sunday

Former celebrity publicist Max Clifford has died aged 74. Clifford was reported to have collapsed twice in recent days in Littlehey Prison in Cambridgeshire, where he was serving an eight-year jail sentence for historic sex offences. Video: Reuters


Former celebrity publicist Max Clifford, who was serving a jail sentence for sex offences, has died in hospital aged 74, the British ministry of justice has said.

Clifford had a cardiac arrest in hospital on Friday, his daughter said. The previous day, he had collapsed in his cell at Littlehey prison in Cambridgeshire, where he was serving an eight-year prison sentence for historical sex offences.

On Sunday, a Prison Service spokeswoman confirmed he had died. “HMP Littlehey prisoner Maxwell Clifford died in hospital on 10 December 2017. As with all deaths in custody, there will be an investigation by the independent prisons and probation ombudsman. Our condolences are with Mr Clifford’s family at this difficult time,” she said.

Louise Clifford had told the Mail on Sunday her father collapsed twice before being taken to hospital, where he had the cardiac arrest. She described him as being “in a bad way” on Saturday and his condition deteriorated the following day.

His first collapse came as Clifford was cleaning his cell, Louise Clifford said. “It was just too much. Next day, he collapsed again and was unconscious for several minutes. He was seen by a nurse who insisted he must be transferred to a local hospital. That’s where he had his cardiac arrest, later on Friday.”

In April 2014, Clifford was convicted of eight counts of indecent assault against teenage girls and women committed between 1977 and 1985. He unsuccessfully appealed against his sentence in November 2014. Three appeal court judges declared the eight-year term “justified and correct”.

This year, he sought permission to appeal against his conviction on the basis of what he believed was fresh evidence. The matter had not been resolved by the time of his death.

‘Contemptuous attitude’

At his 2014 trial, the judge said Clifford had shown a “contemptuous attitude” that compounded his victims’ trauma. He was seen in the dock “laughing and shaking his head” at some of the accusations made against him. That led Judge Anthony Leonard to impose a longer sentence than had been expected.

“I find your behaviour to be quite extraordinary and a further indication that you show no remorse,” he told Clifford.

Up to that point, Clifford had been one of Britain’s best-known publicists. He was involved in some of the biggest stories to emerge in the British press, with a particular flair for kiss and tell stories.

Among his most famous was the News of the World’s “Commons call girl” story, which Clifford later admitted had been motivated by a desire to keep another story out of the papers, and Antonia de Sancha’s claim to have had sex with the Conservative former government minister, David Mellor, while he wore a Chelsea football shirt – which she later said were invented.

Clifford was also involved in the Rebecca Loos-David Beckham affair story that broke in 2004, and he represented Faria Alam, who was reported to have had affairs with the former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson and his boss at the Football Association, Mark Palios.

One of the most famous Clifford stories was the Sun’s “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” splash. Clifford later admitted it was a complete fabrication.

Early in his career, he represented the Beatles and, at its height, he counted among his clients Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra and Chelsea Football Club.

While he was hugely successful professionally for many years, his methods were not universally appreciated in the industry. Francis Ingham, the director general of the Public Relations and Communications Association, said the body had never accepted Clifford as a member.

“I feel sorry for his friends and family. But it would be a lie to construct something nice to say on the death of Mr Clifford. He did our industry a disservice by pretending to be part of it,” he told the Guardian.


“As the industry’s professional body, the PRCA deliberately never gave him a platform, nor did we ever accept him as a member. On the contrary, we repeatedly condemned his work as being the opposite of ethical practice. Nobody in the PR industry will shed a single tear on his passing.”

Clifford was born on April 6th, 1943, in Surrey. He was the youngest of four children and he said he grew up in relative poverty, his father being a milkman and a gambler, while his mother took in lodgers for extra cash.

He left school at 15 with no qualifications and trained as a journalist after he was sacked from his first job as a shop assistant in a department store. He went on to work for the record label EMI in 1962, before setting up Max Clifford Associates in 1970.

He was the first high-profile figure to be jailed under Operation Yewtree, the police investigation into past sex offences that followed the revelations about Jimmy Savile’s years of abuse.