Belfast Telegraph

Live coverage of raid on Cliff Richard's home left him broken man, pal Gloria tells court

By Brian Farmer

Gloria Hunniford has told a High Court judge how Sir Cliff Richard seemed "broken" following BBC coverage of a police raid on his home.

The television and radio presenter from Portadown told Mr Justice Mann that she "encountered" a "real emotional and mental change" in the singer following a broadcast of police searching his apartment in Sunningdale, Berkshire, nearly four years ago.

More recently 77-year-old Sir Cliff seemed more like his "old self" but "still couldn't stop talking about how violated and betrayed he felt", she said.

Her concerns were outlined in a witness statement given to the judge during a High Court trial in London.

Sir Cliff has taken legal action over BBC coverage of the police search, which was staged after a historic sex assault allegation in August 2014.

He denied any wrongdoing and was never charged, with investigators declaring in 2016 that no action would be taken against him.

Sir Cliff says the coverage was a "very serious invasion" of his privacy and wants damages at the "top end" of the scale.

The BBC disputes his claims. Bosses say coverage of the search was accurate and in good faith.

Mr Justice Mann began overseeing the trial last Thursday.

Presenter Hunniford said she had watched the BBC coverage of the search.

"I could not believe what I was seeing," she stated.

"I was immediately very concerned for (Sir Cliff).

"He is a gentle and kind soul and I was extremely worried about how he would be reacting."

She said her fears were well-founded.

"He seemed utterly distraught that the search and allegations against him had been broadcast so widely around the world, and about what everyone must be thinking about him," she said.

"I was exceptionally worried for (Sir Cliff) because I had never heard him like this ever before.

"In my experience, he has always been the most positive and upbeat of people, but speaking to him he seemed like a different person; broken and extremely confused.

"Unfortunately, this impression persisted over the two years that followed.

"When I met with (him) during this period, I encountered a real emotional and mental change in him, even a physical one."

She said she had seen Sir Cliff in recent months.

"He seems more his old self and is looking a lot better," she said.

"However, he cannot stop talking about how violated and betrayed he feels about the BBC decision to broadcast the police search of his apartment and create the media storm that ensued," Ms Hunniford added.

Meanwhile, a BBC reporter who covered South Yorkshire Police's search of Sir Cliff's home texted a force Press officer about a "bonkers but brilliant" day, the High Court was told.

The Press officer replied saying she was getting "lots of grief from the media" because "everyone thinks we tipped you off".

Detail of the text conversation between journalist Dan Johnson and Carrie Goodwin, head of corporate communications at South Yorkshire Police, emerged as Mr Justice Mann analysed evidence.

A barrister leading the BBC's legal team outlined the message exchange as he questioned Ms Goodwin.

Gavin Millar QC said Ms Goodwin had texted Mr Johnson a few hours after South Yorkshire Police officers travelled to carry out a search, and after the BBC broadcast, to ask how the day had gone.

Mr Johnson had texted back saying "bonkers but brilliant", the court heard.

She had replied: "Everyone thinks we tipped you off so lots of grief from the media but nothing we cannot handle."

Mr Millar suggested that the force had gone "out of its way" to enable the BBC journalists to report the search in the way they wanted. Ms Goodwin denied the suggestion.

Sir Cliff's business manager Malcolm Smith told Mr Justice Mann that police had initially estimated that their investigation would take no more than 12 weeks.

But he said the investigation "dragged on" for two years.

At hearing.

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