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Cliff a total gentleman, says Gloria as fans rally behind troubled pop star

By Amanda Ferguson

Gloria Hunniford has leapt to the defence of close friend Sir Cliff Richard following a police raid on his £3.1m Berkshire flat in connection with historical sex abuse allegations.

The 74-year-old Northern Ireland-born broadcaster has known the veteran British pop singer for many years.

Police investigating a child sex assault allegation, dating back to the Eighties, made against Sir Cliff (73) have said "a number of people" have come forward with information as a result of publicity surrounding this week's search of his home.

Ms Hunniford said the star behind hits such as Devil Woman, Bachelor Boy and The Young Ones has always been a wholesome person.

"I've never seen Cliff put a foot or a word wrong in his life, never," she said. "He is a gorgeous man."

The alleged assault of a male fan, aged between 10 and 16 at the time, is said to have taken place in 1985 during a Christian 'crusade' by US preacher Billy Graham who spent eight days delivering sermons at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium.

In a statement earlier this week, Sir Cliff strenuously denied any impropriety.

"For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online," he 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 without notice except, it would appear, to the Press.

"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."

Sir Cliff is currently at his home in Portugal where he has lived on and off over the past 40 years.

He is due to fly back to Britain within days to be questioned by detectives investigating claims he abused the schoolboy three decades ago.

Yesterday, South Yorkshire Police confirmed it worked with a media outlet before searching Sir Cliff's home over the historical sex offence claim and a number of people have come forward with new information since the allegations were made.

Mrs Hunniford is among a series of friends and fans to speak publicly in support of the legendary performer.

Sir Cliff's former manager Bill Latham, who lived with the star for 30 years, denounced the allegations as "fiction".

There has been much debate on social media sites regarding the allegations, with many fans rallying to his support.

Ann Eiger said: "Cliff, you have our support.

"We do not believe any of this muck being said about you," and Jessica Woods (18) from New Zealand said: "Dearest Cliff, I love you more than life.

"I believe in you'."

Devoted fan Mary Stringer wrote: "Thinking of Cliff and wishing him strength and support at this difficult time."

Born as Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, in 1940, Sir Cliff has become one of the most enduring stars of his time, with hits including Living Doll.

He was knighted in 1995, the first pop star to be so honoured, and performed at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012.

The singer, an ardent tennis fan, had a long-term relationship with former champion player and current TV presenter Sue Barker, but it eventually ended and he never married.

Publicity over search triggered new information, say police

Police have been contacted by “a number of people” with information following the widespread media coverage of a search of Sir Cliff Richard's home.

The singer's Berkshire penthouse was scoured for five hours on Thursday by officers from South Yorkshire and Thames Valley Police as part of an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a young boy at a religious event in 1985.

Officers from South Yorkshire and other police forces have received calls with information but it is not yet clear whether any more alleged victims are among those who have made contact.

Sir Cliff, who was in Portugal when the search took place, firmly denied any wrongdoing and hit out at the fact BBC journalists were apparently tipped off about the search.

The broadcaster's head of newsgathering, Jonathan Munro, said yesterday the information did not come from South Yorkshire Police.

In a statement, the force said: “When a media outlet contacted South Yorkshire Police with information about an investigation, we took the decision to work with them in order to protect the integrity of that investigation.

“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.”

Thames Valley Police said it had no contact with the media before the search warrant was executed.

Officers took a number of items from the property for further investigation after the search.

Conservative MP Nigel Evans referred to the case in reiterating his call for suspects in sex offence cases to get anonymity and said “questions have got to be answered” over Sir Cliff's claims the Press had been notified about the search.

Mr Evans, who was cleared of a string of alleged sex offences at a trial earlier this year, told Good Morning Britain: “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 zero per cent of the facts and 100% of the opinions. It's quite wrong for people to pre-judge.”

Former director of public prosecutions, Keir Starmer, has said that there should be “wriggle room” for naming suspects on arrest, as publicity can lead to more alleged victims coming forward.

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