LONDON: Veteran British singer Cliff Richard Thursday strongly denied allegations of sexual impropriety after police investigating an historic claim of abuse against a boy searched one of his properties.
The 73-year-old, a pop star since the 1950s who won fame with songs such as “Devil Woman” and “Living Doll,” said the allegations were “completely false.”
Richard was not present when police officers searched his apartment in a gated community in the village of Sunningdale, Berkshire, southern England.
“A search warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time,” said a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police. “No one has been arrested and the owner of the property was not present.”
Richard has sold more than 250 million records over his career and is nicknamed the Peter Pan of Pop for his enduring youthful looks.
A committed Christian who shunned the sex, drugs and alcohol lifestyle, Richard in 1995 became the first British rock star to be knighted.
He has had No. 1 singles in five decades from the 1950s onward and is regarded as a British institution.
In a statement, Richard, who is reported to be in Portugal, said he had done nothing wrong but said he would “cooperate fully” with the investigation. “For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false,” the singer said.
“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.”
He added: “I am not presently in the U.K. but it goes without saying that I will cooperate fully should the police wish to speak to me.”
He said it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation had concluded.
The singer was born Harry Webb in Lucknow, northern India, on Oct. 14, 1940.
Cliff Richard and The Shadows were a landmark act in early British rock n’ roll, and Richard became a sex symbol, dubbed England’s answer to Elvis Presley.
The police search is not connected to Operation Yewtree, the investigation launched by London’s Scotland Yard police force into late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile and others.
However, the publicity surrounding the abuse of children by Savile, who died aged 84 in October 2011, has led to a surge in allegations of historic sex abuse.
The Australian-born children’s entertainer Rolf Harris, 84, was found guilty on June 30 of 12 assaults against four girls, including an 8-year-old autograph hunter and a close friend of his daughter.
Harris, who had been a fixture on British television for decades, was jailed for five years and nine months for the offenses, which took place between 1968 and 1986.