'Damaging and totally untrue': Max Clifford speaks out against allegations after his arrest in Jimmy Savile sex abuse investigation

69-year-old was held at 7.40am and taken to a central London police station

He once said he loved being “at the centre of everything and being in control”. Britain's best-known publicist Max Clifford secured half of his stated aim at 7.40am today when he was arrested by police investigating claims of historical sex abuse.

Mr Clifford, 69, the fabled master spinner and friend to the stars, was arrested at his Surrey home on suspicion of "sexual offences" and questioned at a central London police station, before being released on bail tonight.

He became the fifth man to be arrested by officers of Operation Yewtree following the avalanche of allegations since the outing of Jimmy Savile as a predatory paedophile in a television documentary in October.

Mr Clifford, whose arrest is understood not to be directly linked with Savile, said last night that the allegation dated back to 1977. Standing outside the police station, he said in a short statement that the claims were "damaging and totally untrue", adding they were "very distressing for myself, my wife, my family and loved ones".

Scotland Yard declined to give further details about the nature of the allegations today, but Mr Clifford had already been centre stage in the saga. He said last month that he had been contacted by more than a dozen major stars and managers who were concerned about the growing scandal and had asked him to "keep them in the picture".

"It is a situation which could easily turn into a witch-hunt, a lot of big stars are frightened," he said during a round of media interviews. "Where is it going to end?" he asked.

Asked whether he was "compromising himself" by acting for people who may have been involved in unwitting underage sex, he said: "It's very simple – I am very close friends with a lot of these people and have been for 40 to 50 years. They know I'm in the middle of the media world, so I'm the first person that they turn to, not just on this subject but lots of subjects."

The arrest marked a stunning development for a man who has been the architect of tabloid "kiss-and-tells" involving major public figures for decades. He was catapulted into the big time after The Sun ran the headline "Freddie Starr ate My Hamster" with his permission – even though the comedian has always denied the allegation. He later told the Leveson Inquiry that he had recognised it would be great publicity for Starr as he embarked on a new tour.

He has since had his fingerprints on numerous classic tabloid front-page stories involving David Beckham, David Mellor, Jude Law and Sven-Goran Eriksson. He has also been caught on camera talking about how he successfully suppressed scandals.

In an old video that only came to light last month, Mr Clifford spoke of how he would create a "false image" for clients as "long as they're not interfering with little kids".

Mr Starr was one of the other five men arrested during the course of the investigation. Gary Glitter, the former radio DJ Dave Lee Travis and former television producer Wilfred De'Ath have all been arrested and subsequently bailed.

A man in his 80s from Berkshire has also been questioned as part of the police inquiry that now involves 30 officers and has cost £2m. They have all denied any wrongdoing.

The spokesman's spokeswoman

With the master publicist unavailable for comment until late last night, the task of confirming Max Clifford's arrest today fell to his solicitor, Charlotte Harris, below, a media specialist at law firm Mishcon de Reya. She represented Mr Clifford in 2010 when News International settled his phone-hacking case for £991,000. The website of Max Clifford Associates, the company he set up in the 1970s after working as a reporter and music PR, had no mention of the arrest. However, a fundraising dinner at which he was due to speak on Monday has been cancelled.

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
News
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
news
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

News
Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
i100
Sport
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
football
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
News
i100
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?