Cliff Richard’s agony: ‘I’ve been hurt so much by false sex abuse claims I just don’t think I’ll ever recover’
The trauma hit him so hard he has been forced to rethink every area of his life – including the showbiz career that has spanned seven decades and won him millions of devoted fans
Sir Cliff Richard has told how his life, health and career were ripped apart in two years of hell as he battled false historical sex claims.
The singer revealed he barely slept the whole time he faced the public accusations, and that he will never fully recover from the ordeal .
The trauma hit him so hard he has been forced to rethink every area of his life – including the showbiz career that has spanned seven decades and won him millions of devoted fans.
The 76-year-old said: “It was a disastrous time emotionally, so traumatic I don’t think I slept more than two hours at a time for two years.
“It hurt me so much I don’t think I can ever recover personally. I’m living my life again and it’s all in my past – but when I think of what I tried to build up in my career, I know it’s been damaged in places I won’t ever go back to.”
SIR CLIFF REFLECTS ON HIS ‘TWO YEARS FROM HELL’
Hinting that he might even start to think about retirement, he said: “I’m still touring, my music still sells, and next month I’ll be 77.
“I’m not quite ready to hang up my guitar but after nearly 60 years in the music business, I’ve been giving some thought to where, one day, I might want to end up.”
For now, Sir Cliff has decided to sell his beloved 300-year-old farmhouse and surrounding vineyard in Portugal, where for 23 years he has plotted and celebrated the highlights of his career and hosted friends including Cilla Black.
His official reason for downsizing is that the estate is now too big for him to manage. He said: “I want to live fully with what I’ve got left.”
But shutting the door on the £6.4million property at Quinta do Moinho on the Algarve could go some way to helping erase the painful memories of the past few years.
Because it was there that he watched on TV with millions around the world as the BBC showed aerial footage of detectives raiding his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, in August 2014.
It followed an allegation the previous year that the star had sexually assaulted a child at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane stadium in 1985 – claims he always denied.
He was never arrested and in June last year prosecutors said he would face no charges.
But for two years he was plagued by claims that tore his world apart.
The singer wrote in the Sunday Times: “It was here that I had the most terrible time of my life, but it was also here that I had the most beautiful time when it all ended.
“This place was such a haven for me. It didn’t change the despair, but I would rather have been despairing here than anywhere else.”
Despite rebuilding his life with the help of his devoted friends and fans, he fears it will never be the same again.
He said: “Some people will always believe there’s no smoke without fire – to which I can only reply with something someone wrote to me: ‘Haven’t they heard of smoke machines?’”
Sir Cliff has since taken legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over coverage of the raid, which had prompted claims that officers tipped off TV bosses as they were moving in on the star.
A scathing independent report later criticised the agreement between police and the BBC, and said it “certainly interfered with [Sir Cliff’s] privacy and may well have caused unnecessary distress”.
The singer is thought to be still negotiating with the BBC over a settlement.
In November last year he called for a change in the law to protect those falsely accused of sexual assault. As he promoted his 102nd album, Just Fabulous Rock & Roll, he told Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans the names of those accused should not be revealed before they are charged.
He said: “You shouldn’t name the person because you might find there’s no evidence. In fact, in this case there was no evidence.
“So two years later I’m free, I’m innocent, but my name was smeared everywhere and everybody knew about it.
“If I was never mentioned until I was charged, there’d be nothing to talk about.
“Yes, an accusation has to be taken seriously, but it doesn’t have to be believed immediately.”
Away from the claims, Cliff’s career continues and he remains as popular as ever.
He is expected to announce plans for celebrations next year to mark 60 years in showbusiness since his 1958 debut hit, Move It.
The anniversary celebrations are highly likely to involve his band The Shadows.
At the end of last year he said: “The fans ask if me and The Shadows are going to get back together and we have decided ‘Yes we will.’” He joked: “We are going to celebrate our 100 years together.”
In all the band – including Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch, both 75, and Brian Bennett, 76, are credited with 64 hit singles in the UK starting in 1958 when they were known as The Drifters.
At the weekend the first pictures from Sir Cliff’s 39th calender were revealed at the weekend, showing him looking remarkably toned and tanned in a short-sleeved shirt knotted at the waist.
It is sure to be a hit with fans, who have bought more than 1.5million of his calendars over four decades.