CELEBRITY publicist Max Clifford is facing prison after being found guilty of a string of indecent assaults on teenage girls, in the first conviction under the Operation Yewtree sex-crime inquiry.
The 71-year-old PR guru was convicted of eight indecent assaults and cleared of two others at Southwark Crown Court in London yesterday, with the jury unable to reach a verdict on one other charge.
Clifford had repeatedly denied the claims, calling his arrest and prosecution “a nightmare” and branding his accusers “fantasists”.
The verdicts were delivered to a packed courtroom, by the forewoman of the jury, on its eighth day of deliberations.
Clifford sat motionless in the dock as his fate was revealed, breathing deeply as he listened through a hearing loop. His daughter Louise showed no emotion.
He was freed on bail until he is sentenced on Friday, but Judge Anthony Leonard, QC, warned he may face jail. He said: “You must realise that the fact I have given you bail is no indication of what the final sentence will be.”
Clifford then walked out of the courtroom with friends and supporters, one of them patting him on the shoulder.
The jury had heard from a string of women who testified about his behaviour, including stripping naked in his New Bond Street office in London.
Prosecutors portrayed him as a well-practised manipulator, who promised to boost his victims’ careers and get them to meet celebrities in exchange for sexual favours.
He offered to get them casting appointments, even pretending on the phone to be Hollywood bigwigs such as Steven Spielberg, Albert “Cubby” Broccoli and Michael Winner. Bizarrely, he even bragged about having a tiny penis.
Victims included one woman who said Clifford had abused her on a number of occasions after he met her family on holiday in Torremolinos, Spain, in 1977, when she was 15.
She told how he would go to her house, impressing her parents and speaking about how he could make her a star, before taking her out in his car and molesting her.
She later wrote him an anonymous letter saying he had made her life “a living hell”.
Another victim, who was an extra in the film Octopussy, said she was targeted at Clifford’s office in 1981 or 1982, when she was 19. Clifford told her actor Charles Bronson wanted pictures of her in her underwear to decide whether she could be in a film, and after she had spoken on the phone to a man claiming to be Bronson, Clifford pinned her down on a sofa, but she fought him off.
Another victim was an aspiring model who went to his office in the early 1980s, when she was in her late teens, and was told to pose in her underwear. She said that as she took off her dress, he told her, “What a turn-on”, and groped her. After a phone call with his wife, he tried to force her to perform a sex act, telling her he would get her a part in a Bond film but that she would have to sleep with Cubby Broccoli.
An 18-year-old dancer was also targeted by the PR expert, who took her into a nightclub toilet in the early 1980s and forced her to touch his penis, saying: “Who is going to believe you?”
She said Clifford persuaded her to take a phone call from someone who told her that if she wanted a screen test, she would have to tell him whether Clifford was circumcised.
Outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Michael Orchard, from Operation Yewtree, said: “I would like to thank the victims for their courage and strength in coming forward to speak to us. I hope they feel and know that they were listened to. While this was a high-profile trial, officers work tirelessly to being offenders of sexual abuse to justice on a daily basis.”
Jenny Hopkins, deputy chief prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in London, said: “Today’s verdicts provide a long-denied justice to the victims of serious sexual offences. I would like to thank these victims for having had the courage to come forward and give evidence. The victims of sexual abuse, whenever it may have taken place, should know that police and prosecutors will listen.”
The jury could not reach a verdict on a charge involving a woman who claimed Clifford had groped her in his car after meeting her at a Wimpy bar in Morden, south London, in 1966.
He was cleared of two charges: one involving a woman who claimed she had been pushed up against a wall in his London offices as he groped and kissed her in 1975, and another centred on a woman who claimed she was groped in a taxi in 1978.
Clifford spoke only briefly to waiting journalists as he left court, posing for pictures with a blank expression and flanked by supporters. He told journalists: “I have been told by my lawyers not to say anything at all.”
As he walked to his waiting car, Clifford was asked what it felt like to be the story, and he replied it was “not the first time”.
The trial heard from a string of women who were not on the indictment – either because their claims did not meet the criminal standard or because they were about alleged incidents in other countries. The most serious allegation was from a woman who said Clifford had forced her to touch his penis when she was just 12 years old, during a holiday in Spain.
Celebrity pals told jury he was ‘good man’
A NUMBER of Max Clifford’s showbiz friends appeared in his defence during his trial.
Chat show host Des O’Connor told the jury Clifford was “charming”. The 82-year-old said the publicist was “always pleasant and friendly” when he attended filming for the Des O’Connor Tonight show, often with comedian Freddie Starr, who was a regular guest.
Actress Pauline Quirke, who has known Clifford for 20 years, described him as a “good, decent man”.
“I’ve been in his company on a number of occasions and found him very down to earth,” the Birds Of A Feather star said.
Sky TV presenter Clare Tomlinson, who was Clifford’s personal assistant in 1991, said he had “an old-school charm”.
Comedian Lennie Bennett’s former manager, Alan Field, recalled jokes Clifford played when they worked in the publicist’s London offices.
He said his “friend” Clifford came up with the idea of having two topless women at a meeting with Morecambe and Wise producer Ernest Maxin in the early 1980s. Another prank involved Clifford saying a number of set phrases, including Fatty Arbuckle, in a Newsnight interview about model Naomi Campbell.
Bronson, Broccoli and Spelling … the fake phone calls Clifford used to fool his victims
Max Clifford used a host of fake names and aliases to manipulate his victims into performing sex acts on him – even pretending to impersonate Hollywood figures.
A common technique for getting young women to be at his command was to call them on the phone under one of these guises and tell them to do things to Clifford.
Jurors heard from a woman who was about 20 when Clifford suggested he become her agent after she landed a minor part in 1983 James Bond film Octopussy starring Roger Moore.
He told her he could get her a part in the next Charles Bronson film, but the US actor would need to see some photos of her in lingerie before casting her. After posing for him for what she suspected were fake photos, Clifford claimed to be on the phone to Bronson and passed it to her before leaving the room.
She said she spoke to a man with an American accent who told her he was looking forward to meeting her before Clifford re-entered the room and she passed him back the phone.
Another woman spoke of how she had a phone conversation with a man claiming to be Hollywood film producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli. He told her to check if Clifford was circumcised.
The woman, who was about 18 when the incident happened in the early 1980s, broke down in tears as she told how she feared Clifford would rape her.
One victim spoke of how she was promised a role by Clifford, 71, alongside Blade Runner actor Rutger Hauer. She said she visited his London offices as a 16-year-old in 1988 and was told by Clifford she needed to talk to the film’s director to “audition’’, and he directed her to go to the department store Fenwick and answer a public telephone.
She said she went to the phone and a man called who said he was the director. He spoke with a “feminine voice’’ and told her to return to Clifford’s office and find his “Achilles’ heel’’. She said that when she returned to his offices, Clifford exposed himself to her before telling her to return to the phone box.
During the second call with the purported director, he told her to return to Clifford’s office and find his “weakness’’. She said that once again, the defendant exposed himself to her.
Another woman told how Clifford coerced her into performing a sex act on him after telling her she could become a star of 1980s TV show Dynasty. Clifford told her he would get the director, Aaron Spelling, to phone her about it, and later she had a call from someone speaking in a camp American accent who identified himself as Spelling. The caller told her he was sure Clifford fancied him. She was later made to recount the conversation to Clifford, who walked around his desk, and took his trousers down.