Sir Cliff Richard spent two years being investigated over historic sex abuse allegations against him and his good friend Gloria Hunniford stood by him throughout his ordeal.
The pair share a “truly deep friendship” that goes back to 1969 and she never once believed the allegations, with their relationship remaining strong during the three-year police probe.
Now, in an extract from her fascinating new autobiography, My Life, she talks of her 50-year bond with Sir Cliff, and the “traumatic” investigation, which he believes has permanently damaged his reputation.
The ‘Summer Holiday’ singer was in Portugal when his home was raided by the police and the BBC chartered a helicopter to film the unfolding scene.
Despite the the circus that ensued, Cliff was never arrested or charged, and in the extract published in the Mirror, Gloria recalled: ‘I first met Cliff in 1969 and a truly deep friendship exists between us – I would trust him with my life. So I felt utter disbelief when, in 2014, his Berkshire home was raided by police – with the BBC hovering in a helicopter to cover the shock event.
‘I rang Cliff and said: “Sit down and don’t say anything. This is what you have to do. This is the best lawyer for you.” I was with him from the very beginning.
‘Sitting in Portugal, watching his apartment being raided, Cliff fell to his knees and wept. A friend with him said “get up. You know you’ve done nothing wrong” but that was only the start of a nightmare.
‘He was in a state of total shock. He had no idea who his accuser was and there was little information from the police. He was appalled that anybody would put him through such agony.
‘And so began nearly three years of torture.
‘Friends kept going to Portugal to see him but he was effectively imprisoned there.’
‘Cliff was understandably tormented because he felt the CPS had left him open to “no smoke without fire” insinuations. “How can there be any evidence for something that never took place?”
‘Even now he cannot believe what’s happened – it literally eats away at him. He lost so much weight that when he hugged you, it felt like skin and bone.
‘Cliff lost his joy for life.’
Despite being cleared of all allegations, the 76-year-old star previously said he knows there’ll always be people who doubt his innocence.
He told the Sunday Times newspaper: “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?’ ”
The veteran performer isn’t “quite ready” to retire just yet, but he did admit his future is on his mind.
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.”
The ‘Bachelor Boy’ hitmaker has decided to sell his beloved house and vineyard in Portugal because it has grown too big to manage and he has mixed memories of the Algarve estate, because it’s where he was forced to remain when the police hounded him and raided his home in Sunningdale, Berkshire, South East England.