A South Yorkshire Police search team has raided the home of Sir Cliff Richard after a complaint that he sexually assaulted a boy at a Christian concert in Sheffield.
Officers travelled to the Sunningdale area of Berkshire on Wednesday night and executed a search warrant at Sir Cliff’s plush apartment this morning.
The inquiry concerns an alleged assault claimed to have taken place at an appearance by American evangelist Billy Graham in Sheffield in 1985.
Sir Cliff, 73, made an appearance at Graham’s eight-day Christian crusade in the city in June 1985. The star performed gospel songs in front of a 47,000 strong crowd at Sheffield United’s ground Bramall Lane.
The eight-strong police team examined every room of the property, which was empty when they arrived.
Sir Cliff was on holiday in Portugal when he was informed of the police activity. It is understood that lawyers for the singer have been in contact with South Yorkshire Police.
The legendary entertainer, whose hits go back six decades, denies any wrongdoing.
He dismissed an allegation that he sexually assaulted a child as ‘completely false’.
“For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online,” he added.
“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.
“I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will cooperate 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.”
No one has been arrested in connection with the search.
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.
They began work at about 10.30am and five unmarked police cars were seen leaving the site at around 3.30pm.
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “A number of items have been removed for further investigation.”
Sir Cliff made a number of visits to South Yorkshire in the 1980s.
He performed in front of 2,000 fans at Sheffield City Hall in February 1981 on an unpaid gospel tour to raise money for charity
Sir Cliff returned to the City Hall in October 1988 to perform four sell out gigs.
His legal team is understood to have been in touch with South Yorkshire Police over the force’s investigation, which is not connected to Scotland Yard’s Operation Yewtree probe, launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick of South Yorkshire Police issued a brief statement about the search outside the force’s headquarters in Sheffield this afternoon.
He said the investigation is in its ‘really early stages’.
Det Superintendent Fenwick said: “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.
“No one has been arrested and the owner of the property was not present.”
Sir Cliff, both Harry Webb in Lucknow, India, has become one of the most enduring stars of his time.
He was knighted in 1995 - the first rock star to be honoured and performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert at Buckingham Palace in 2012.