So finally – the waiting is over!
Let’s remind ourselves of what happened. In late 2013, a man – who has managed to remain anonymous even to this day - made an allegation to the Metropolitan Police, saying he had been sexually assaulted by Sir Cliff – as a child - during an event featuring the American evangelist Billy Graham at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane football stadium, in 1985.
Metropolitan Police officers passed the allegation to South Yorkshire Police in July 2014. Sir Cliff was never arrested or formally charged and always protested his innocence.
The BBC – who had been badly burned by their culpability in the case of Sir Jimmy Saville in not pursuing allegations made against him – were determined not to be caught out this time. So they went in with all guns blazing – or helicopter blades whirring – and filmed the police raiding Sir Cliff’s home in Surrey. He was in Portugal at the time and received a call from a friend telling him to turn on the TV! He was not informed of this raid in advance and the whole world saw pictures of police poking about in his personal bits and pieces from close up camera shots.
They found nothing – though I’m still mystified as to what they thought they would find after 35 years! I was in court the day that the BBC producer said it wasn’t an invasion of privacy but "in the public interest".
Cliff said that "of all the people that might have done this" to him, he would "never have dreamed that it would be the BBC.” He never went back to that apartment except to pack his belongings as he felt it had been contaminated. The BBC had the audacity to submit the clip of the search to a competition for news coverage. It didn't win.
I have never heard or seen even a sniff of scandal about him – much to the annoyance of the British press
I’ve known Sir Cliff since the mid 60s when he and the group I was with, The Settlers made several television programmes and performed concerts both here in the UK and on the continent. I can quite honestly say that I have never heard or seen even a sniff of scandal about him – much to the annoyance of the British press who, as he once told me “would love to find me drunk in the gutter outside a nightclub”. They simply couldn’t, or didn’t want to believe that ‘what you saw was what you got’. That he really was ‘Mr Nice Guy’ who professed his Christian faith as often as he could and he walked the talk.
I was in regular email contact with him after the news broke and met up with him a few years ago at his Barbados home (pictured, above). This was the first time I’d been able to sit and talk and pray with him about what was happening. I couldn’t believe how much weight he’d lost! He wanted to talk about it – and just couldn’t believe that someone could make up a story and name him without a shred of evidence. He was saddened especially by the BBC who he used to have admiration for and whom he did many TV shows. He felt that his name had been smeared. He had to wait for 22 months to find out if further action was going to be taken and in that time he permanently had a knot in his stomach and found it difficult to sleep.
He did say however, that all this had strengthened his faith. He was very grateful for everyone’s prayers. I recently felt I’d been 'given' Psalm 40 for him and he really appreciated it – as he has all the encouragement and love and prayer that have been poured out to him.
So where does he go from here? Well, more of the same! He’s giving a string of concerts this year and shows no sign of heading to a comfy chair and a pair of slippers! He’s brought so much happiness to so many people over the years – all over the world – and there are many who owe their Christian faith to attending one of his concerts or reading his testimony. He has always given God the glory and has been used by him mightily over the years – and I’m sure will continue to do so. So, Congratulations! (Well it had to be said!).