News Column

Police in Richard raid given new information: Members of public come forward after home search Singer denies allegation of sex abuse at 1985 rally

August 16, 2014

Vikram Dodd



Police investigating an alleged sex assault by Sir Cliff Richard said yesterday that new people had come forward with information after media coverage of a raid by detectives on the home of the entertainer.

Richard's property in Sunningdale, Berkshire, was searched on Thursday by detectives investigating a single claim of the sexual abuse of a boy aged under 16 at an evangelical rally held by Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985 at which the singer performed.

The search is mired in controversy because BBC journalists, who apparently knew the raid was going to take place, were waiting for the police outside.

South Yorkshire police said yesterday that they had worked with the BBC before the raid, but denied being the source of the leak. "When a media outlet contacted SYP with information about an investigation, we took the decision to work with them in order to protect the integrity of that investigation," the force said in a statement. "Since the search took place a number of people have contacted the police to provide information and we must acknowledge that the media played a part in that, for which we are grateful."

The force gave no detail of what kind of information had been provided, or how useful it was to its investigation. It added: "South Yorkshire police was not the original source of information . . . South Yorkshire police does not know the source of the information."

The Thames Valley force - which helped South Yorkshire police officers carry out the search - also denied being the source of the leak. While South Yorkshire police would have alerted the Thames Valley force that they wished to carry out an operation in its area, it is unclear if any other criminal justice organisation would have had prior knowledge.

Richard is believed to be in Portugal. Police said they wanted to speak to the owner of the property they searched, but would not say whether that was as a suspect, a witness or in another capacity.

Richard said on Thursday that he had been aware of rumours circulating on the internet for some time, but that the allegation was "completely false". The police raid, he added, was "without notice, except, it would appear, to the press".

Nigel Evans, the Conservative MP and former deputy speaker of the Commons, who was cleared of sex offences by a jury after a trial this year, told ITV's Good Morning Britain yesterday that "questions have got to be answered" over Richard's claims that the press were notified about the search.

"It appears the press knew what was happening before he did and the world's media were camped outside his doorstep. A press helicopter was up before the police even arrived - he is quite right to be angry about that. Questions have got to be answered.

"I believe in the vast majority of cases [suspects] should have anonymity. We have to recognise the impact this has on people. People have 0% of the facts and 100% of the opinions. It's quite wrong for people to pre-judge."

Detectives from South Yorkshire were yesterday believed to be processing items seized during the five-hour search.

The 73-year-old veteran of British entertainment announced his Christian faith at a Billy Graham event in London in 1966 and has done extensive charity work. He was a special guest at Graham's rally in Sheffield on 28 June 1985, where he performed before a crowd of thousands.

The event programme described the entertainer as Britain's "leading Christian ambassador".

In his statement on Thursday, Richard said: "It goes without saying that I will cooperate fully should the police wish to speak to me." Graham staged a series of rallies in Sheffield. He has been friends with Richard for decades.

Leader comment, page 36 =

South Yorkshire police said they had worked with the BBC before the raid but had not leaked news of the planned search

Captions:

Cliff Richard in 1985, performing at the Billy Graham evangelical rally in Sheffield that is the focus of a child sex abuse claim being investigated by police


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Source: Guardian (UK)


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