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Noted PR consultant arrested in Britain's sex abuse scandal

December 06, 2012|By Janet Stobart
  • Celebrity publicist Max Clifford, accompanied by his wife, Jo Westwood arrives to testify at an unrelated inquiry into the conduct of Britain's tabloid media.
Celebrity publicist Max Clifford, accompanied by his wife, Jo Westwood… (Lefteris Pitarakis / Associated…)

LONDON -- Internationally known public relations consultant Max Clifford was arrested Thursday by British police investigating cases of sexual abuse.

The 69-year-old media guru was the sixth person to be questioned by police in the widening inquiry. Although the police report stated simply that "officers working on Operation Yewtree have this morning, Thursday 6 December, arrested a man in his 60s in connection with the investigation," media reports quoting Clifford's attorney Charlotte Harris named him as the suspect.

“Max Clifford is being interviewed by police,” she said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. “Mr. Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their inquiries. When we are in a position to provide further information, we will.”

Clifford, widely known as the king of the kiss-and-tell stories, represented such clients as Simon Cowell of "X Factor" fame and other TV stars, singers, sports personalities as well as people involved in scandals and news stories either seeking or trying to hide from publicity.

The suspect was arrested at his home in Surrey early Thursday morning “on suspicion of sexual offenses and has been taken into a central London police station,” the police statement said.

Operation Yewtree began after allegations surfaced from people claiming to have been molested over the last 50 years by the late Jimmy Savile a highly popular disc jockey and entertainer who died last year.

Further allegations have gone beyond the Savile investigation and involve others in the entertainment world in what police say is now a three-tiered investigation.

The inquiry so far has seen four other men formally arrested: Gary Glitter, 68, a former pop star; Freddie Starr, 69, a comedian and client of Clifford's; Dave Lee Travis, a popular disc jockey; and BBC producer William De’Ath. 

An unnamed sixth man in his 80s from Berkshire has been questioned under caution but not arrested.

The Savile inquiry followed statements by people, many now in their 50s, claiming that they were sexually abused as teenagers by Savile. The entertainer was well known for his charity work at children’s hospitals and hosting popular TV shows that included "Jim’ll Fix It," which aimed to help people achieve a lifelong dream experience.

The resulting scandal has taken its toll on the BBC, with the police inquiry and an in-house probe following a furor over the cancellation of a documentary on the allegations of abuse by Savile. The scandal recently caused the resignation of Director General George Entwistle and several high-profile editors.

Since the police inquiry was set up in mid-October, an estimated 500 people have lodged complaints of abuse by Savile and others.

"The public's response to this issue has been astounding,” said a statement by Commander Peter Spindler, supervisor of the inquiry, as it got underway in October.  

“We are dealing with alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale," he said. "The profile of this operation has empowered a staggering number of victims to come forward to report the sexual exploitation which occurred during their childhood.”

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