ITV’s daytime television programme Loose Women has broadcast its exclusive interview with Cliff Richard, following the news that the Crown Prosecution Service has decided that there is insufficient evidence regarding historic allegations against him of sex abuse. South Yorkshire Police spent almost two years investigating the claims before passing to the CPS what the CPS described as “a full file of evidence”.
Here’s what the singer had to say about how the police handled the first allegation against him, which was that he had molested a boy at a Billy Graham rally at Sheffield Football Stadium in 1985:
This very first accuser made so many mistakes. And, remember – and this is not good for the South Yorkshire Police – but they didn’t even check until four weeks and two or three days later after they broke into my apartment. He got so much wrong. The room he said it happened in, apparently didn’t exist in 1985. Goalposts were never kept in rooms. And then he got the year wrong. He said it was 1983, and Billy Graham wasn’t there till ’85. So now I’m thinking to myself “well of course they’re going to just throw it out. This is nonsense.” They didn’t throw it out, and because of the raid, and because of the accusation, because of the BBC, I found myself smeared and named.
Police apparently put some effort into reconstructing his schedule for that day, telling him
“It would take at least two hours to fill that stadium. You were there for a lot longer than that.” And they said, “Also, you did another event too, before it all started. You went into a marquee, you sang a song to all these people. You spoke about your faith.” I went, “oh yeah”. And then of course I did two-and-a-half hours onstage in front of 47,000 people. And he said, “and yes, afterwards you were taken to a hotel to speak to some other people.”…. I wasn’t quick enough. I should have said: “I did all that? How did I find time to molest anybody.”
The investigating police also ignored testimony:
And apart from anything else, Glo, there were five policemen on duty that night. They’re now retired, but they volunteered their services… The five retired policemen phoned South Yorkshire Police and offered to make a statement because they felt I couldn’t have done this. They were there the whole night with me. They weren’t even answered… They wouldn’t accept the call. And so fortunately for me, they had read who my lawyers were. They phoned the lawyers, and said “we would like make statements”. And they have written statements, just in case I had to go to court, saying “in our humble opinion, this could never have happened. We were with him that whole time.” The police weren’t interested. And that’s what makes me so angry and confused, because they had all this and we could have got rid of that first accusation immediately.
Instead, the publicity meant that other false accusers decided to chance their arm – the interview did not say much about these individuals, but a companion Daily Mail article has the background:
One of his accusers turned out to be one of the country’s most dangerous sex offenders. Another is a man who previously tried to blackmail Cliff. His demands were not met and he was reported to the police.
The ‘roller skate guy’, as Cliff calls him, went on to become a religious minister. Lest anyone think that gives him credence as a witness, the ministry offers anyone a chance to ‘become ordained almost immediately’.
Cliff points out: ‘I understand you can be ordained by paying $27 online.’
The “roller skate guy” claims that Richard roller-skated into a shop, groped him, and then did the same thing a short time afterwards. The absurdity is self-evident. Meanwhile, the sex offender accuser (a serial rapist, in fact) bandwagoned on well-know conspiracy theories about Richard and Leon Brittain deriving from a supposed list of attendees at the Elm Guest House that was compiled by the convicted fraudster Chris Fay.
The interview also mentioned Paul Gambaccini, Jim Davidson, and Jimmy Tarbuck as three other celebrities who have been smeared by false sex abuse allegations; Gambaccini and Davidson have both written books about their experiences, as has the former politician Harvey Proctor, who was falsely accused of sex abuse, torture, and child murder (more on Tarbuck here). In a recent conversation with Chris Jefferies, Gambaccini reportedly observed that police are “dumber” the further up the police chain, and that while “younger cops are interested in justice… senior ones interested in results”. Cliff Richard’s preferred term is “inept”.
Gambaccini also said that the names of suspects are regularly leaked by police to the press, and this was a major aggravating factor in Cliff Richards’s case – notoriously, the BBC was on hand with a helicopter when his apartment was raided, which obviously means that they knew what was going to happen some time before Richard did. Perhaps this was down to the accuser or his handler, but I’m doubtful: we do know for sure that the police “sent the BBC an aerial photograph of Sir Cliff Richard’s home the night before the raid”, in order to facilitate the live coverage.
The end of the Loose Women interview includes a statement from the police:
The force apologies wholeheartedly for the additional anxiety caused by our initial handling of the media interest in this case and has implemented the learning from this and a subsequent review.
But it seems that the police generated “the media interest” in the first place.
One more point to ponder. Cliff Richard is nearly 76 years old, and appears to be in good health. But supposing he had died a few years ago? A detail in a Daily Mail article from August 2014 gives us a clue about to how things would have developed:
The allegation against Sir Cliff first emerged in October 2012 when the alleged victim contacted Mark Williams-Thomas, an investigative journalist and former detective who worked on an ITV documentary exposing Jimmy Savile.
Yesterday, Mr Williams-Thomas confirmed that he had also passed new information to the police about Sir Cliff in addition to the allegations he heard from the alleged victim.
Almost certainly, it seems to me, the British public would by now have been subjected to high-profile television documentary on “Cliff Richard Exposed”, with tearful pseudo-victims telling their lies (cherry-picked by the editors for plausibility) while protected by dim lighting and actors’ voices. Police would then have issued a sombre statement appealing for “further victims” to come forward, and there would have been calls for the Goddard Inquiry to look into the matter. All without the man himself around to defend himself.
How many other celebrities, particularly those famous in the 1970s and 1980s, are destined to be traduced in this way once they have died?