Cliff Richard: I'm totally innocent of child sex claim
Pop legend Sir Cliff Richard has dismissed a sex crime claim involving a young boy in the 1980s as "completely false".
The star hit out as police carried out a five-hour search of his £3.1m Berkshire penthouse apartment yesterday, saying he had seen allegations circulating online for months but had chosen not to "dignify" them with a response.
Sir Cliff (73) is not currently in the UK but pledged to co-operate with the inquiry, which concerns an alleged assault claimed to have taken place at an appearance by American evangelist Billy Graham in Sheffield on June 28, 1985.
The allegation concerns a boy aged under 16 at the time, and was reported to police recently. He is believed to have been a member of a Christian organisation.
Preacher Billy Graham was at the height of his fame, and with Cliff as his special guest, they attracted tens of thousands to Bramall Lane football ground for the first of eight nights of sermons at the stadium, according to reports of the time.
When Graham invited people to come forward to show a commitment to Jesus, 2,000 people walked on to the pitch.
Outside, anti-apartheid demonstrators were protesting against Sir Cliff's decision to play charity gospel concerts in South Africa.
The following day, Sir Cliff, dressed in a white suit, was pictured with Graham on the front page of the Sheffield Morning Telegraph. By then, the two men had known each other for two decades.
It is understood that lawyers for the singer, who is in Portugal, have been in contact with South Yorkshire Police, who are carrying out the inquiry.
Sir Cliff played a charity gig at his Algarve home, where he lives during the summer, last week. He also has a home in Barbados.
His publicists were last night unable to say when he would be returning to Britain.
The investigation is not connected to Scotland Yard's high-profile sex crime probe Operation Yewtree, which was launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal.
In a statement, Sir Cliff said: "The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.
"However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press.
"I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me.
"Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false, it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded."
Speaking at a police station in South Yorkshire, Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick stressed the investigation is in its "really early stages".
"South Yorkshire Police have gained entry into a property in the Sunningdale area of Berkshire," he said yesterday.
"Officers are currently searching that property.
"A search warrant has been granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s. This involved a young boy under the age of 16 years.
"No one has been arrested at this stage and the owner of the property is not present."
A total of eight officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley police took part in the search of the performer's flat in a highly-private gated development.
Helicopters pictured officers removing disposable gloves behind the windows of what appeared to be an office in the apartment that Sir Cliff bought six years ago.
Born as Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, in 1940, Sir Cliff has become one of the most enduring stars of his time.