PR guru victim of 'kiss and tell'

Amit Roy

London, Dec. 7: Britain's best known public relations supremo, Max Clifford, was yesterday arrested by the police and grilled for 12 hours over allegations that he had been involved in some kind of sexual abuse in the 1970s.

"All I can say is that they are totally without any foundation and they are totally untrue," he said. Clifford stressed that he had "nothing to hide".

Clifford, who is 69, said he thought he was facing two allegations dating back to 1977. As a fall out from the Jimmy Savile affair, police are under political pressure to go back 30 years and examine just how much paedophilia was prevalent in Britain. Savile, who died last year, aged 84, appears to have abused many vulnerable young women while working for the BBC as a disc jockey.

"It's extremely distressing, not only for myself but also for my wife Joan and my daughter Louise, for friends and family," Clifford added. "It's horrible for them as well."

Clifford has been a controversial character over the years as he has been involved in selling "kiss and tell" stories to the tabloids on behalf of clients. His cut from fees earned, usually running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, is usually 25 per cent.

His clients have included Shilpa Shetty after the Bollywood actress won Celebrity Big Brother in January 2007 following some bad tempered exchanges with another housemate, the late Jade Goody.

In 2004, he represented Faria Alam, a Bangladeshi secretary who sold her story of her one-night stand with the England football coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. The third Asian woman who figured in his career was Pamella Bordes (the former Miss India, Pamela Singh), who was going out with a number of high profile British men in 1989 while also working on the side as a prostitute.

But she was not Clifford's client ' he claimed he was trying to protect clients who had been involved with her.

Although many a beautiful young woman has passed through the consulting rooms of Max Clifford Associates, press and public relations consultants, he has always come across as a professional man, a sort of Sherlock Holmes who was only interested either in marketing a kiss and tell or, at times, suppressing a story a client wanted kept out of the papers.

He has also been a family man , devoted to his late first wife, who died of cancer, and to a handicapped daughter. He has since remarried. He has also been involved in charity work. Though his critics accused him of dealing in sleaze, he was never personally accused of sleeping around. Therefore, his arrest yesterday by police, who picked him up at his home in Surrey at 7.40pm (local time), was as unexpected as it was shocking.

When he was released at 9.20pm on police bail ' this means he can be re-arrested at any time if further evidence comes to light ' he stood outside Belgravia police station, met the press and the cameramen and rejected the accusations levelled against him. However, he did not disclose the identities of his accusers, however.

"On a personal level, they are very distressing for myself, my wife, my family and loved ones," he said last night. "Anyone who really knew me all those years ago and those who have known me since will have no doubt that I would never act in the way that I have today been accused."

This morning as he set off for work from home, he again insisted he was innocent. "I'll be working as I normally do � so trying to make things as normal as I possibly can under the circumstances."

Of his interrogation by police officers, he said: "I'd been there about 12 hours sitting in the cells and being asked questions for hours and hours and hours. I wasn't exactly a bundle of joy, you know. I still came out and faced the cameras and spoke to everyone as I've got nothing to hide."

He told the reporters: "I understand you have got a job to do because I have been involved for the last 45 years. It's a horrible thing to happen to anybody but I'm old enough and ugly enough to face it and sort it out, which is what I have got to do."

Last month the publicist publicly questioned where the police inquiry might lead and said a lot of old stars were worried about being dragged into the investigation because they had appeared on Top Of The Pops or Jim'll Fix It and had merely posed for photographs with girls and Savile.

"It is a situation which could easily turn into a witch hunt, a lot of big stars are frightened," he told ITV's Daybreak. "Where is it going to end? I hope they (the police) concentrate on finding people like Jimmy Savile who were manipulating girls."

Today, Clifford came out fighting: "So it is up to me to do everything I can to sort this out as quickly as possible and hopefully the truth will come out and then I can get back to the life I have enjoyed for the last however many years."

Police said in a statement that a man from Surrey arrested on suspicion of sexual offences had been bailed to appear at a date later this month, adding: "We are not prepared to discuss further."

Last month Scotland Yard said it was dealing with about 450 potential victims, the vast majority of whom claimed they had fallen prey to Savile.

Officers are looking at three strands within their inquiry: claims against Savile, those against Savile and others, and those against others.

So far Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr, DJ Dave Lee Travis and a man in his 70s, reported to be former television producer Wilfred De'Ath, have been arrested and bailed as part of the investigation.