London, Aug. 24: Fans of Cliff Richard are buying copies of his 1992 hit single, I Believe in You, as a way of showing support for him as it was announced that the 73-year-old pop star was interviewed by police yesterday about a sex abuse allegation.
Cliff flew in from his home in Portugal and voluntarily submitted to questioning by police in Yorkshire about the allegation, which he has emphatically denied, that he abused an underage boy at a Billy Graham evangelical rally in Sheffield in 1985.
Cliff, an enduring star for half a century, has a worldwide following, with devoted fans especially in India where he was born.
Cliff has remained a bachelor boy all his life but though he came close to marriage once — to the former tennis player Sue Barker — has always managed to avoid scandal.
Cliff was in Portugal when the police arrived at his UK residence and had no prior knowledge either of the search or that BBC cameras would be on hand to witness the comings and goings.
A spokesperson for Cliff, whose Berkshire apartment was searched by police on August 14 with the BBC filming the arrival and departure of officers, said that “Sir Cliff Richard voluntarily met with and was interviewed by members of South Yorkshire Police. He was not arrested or charged”.
“He co-operated fully with officers and answered the questions put to him,” added the spokesperson. “Other than restating that this allegation is completely false and that he will continue to co-operate fully with the police, it would not be appropriate for Sir Cliff to say anything further at this time.”
The police will now be under pressure to bring charges against Cliff. But if none materialises it will look — as Cliff’s supporters are claiming — he has been the target of a “witch hunt”.
South Yorkshire police said yesterday a “73-year-old man had been spoken to” in relation to an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to 1985. “The man was interviewed under caution but was not arrested. He entered South Yorkshire police premises by arrangement.”
Cliff’s life has been turned upside down by the sex abuse allegations. The singer has pulled out of a visit to the US Open tennis championships and cancelled an appearance at a charity event at Canterbury Cathedral next month.
The BBC has found itself in the firing line. Critics want to know how the BBC received a tip-off and why Yorkshire police agreed that TV cameras should be present. The BBC, which is financed by the licence fee, hired a helicopter to film the police search.
South Yorkshire police chief constable David Crompton said the force was approached by a BBC journalist with detailed information about its investigation. It “reluctantly agreed” to give the reporter notice of the day officers planned to search the property to dissuade the corporation from publishing details in advance and protect the “integrity of the investigation”.
BBC director-general Tony Hall has insisted that BBC journalists “acted appropriately” in its coverage of the story.