The keeper of a thousand celebrity sex secrets, Max Clifford faces jail after being undone by his own private life, found guilty on Monday of manipulating and abusing teenage girls as young as 15 years old over a 20-year period.
The publicist becomes the first person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree – the Metropolitan Police’s £3m investigation into historical sex abuse set up after Jimmy Savile’s posthumous exposure as a predatory paedophile.
In a packed but hushed courtroom, the jury of six men and four women convicted Clifford of eight charges of indecent assault, having deliberated the case for almost 40 hours across eight days. He was cleared of two more charges, and the jury failed to reach a verdict on another, but this was the downfall of a publicist who spent half a century protecting the rich and famous.
The PR guru breathed deeply as he listened to the verdicts through a hearing loop while sitting in the dock at Southwark Crown Court but said nothing to betray his emotions. His daughter Louise, watching behind her father, had remained expressionless as the verdicts were read while Clifford’s office manager buried her head in her hands.
Read more: He forged a career by covering up dirty secrets – but in the end, he couldn’t escape his own
Judge Anthony Leonard QC warned the 71-year-old that granting him bail was no indication of the severity or otherwise of his impending sentence, which could be given as early as Friday.
Clifford walked out of court in silence, refusing to comment on the advice of his lawyer before being bundled into a car.
Liz Dux, a lawyer representing more than 150 people who have made complaints under Operation Yewtree, said: “This verdict proves Yewtree was not a celebrity witch-hunt. Some predatory people used their fame, money and celebrity to groom and then abuse the vulnerable. I hope this verdict sends a firm message – no longer will abusers like Clifford be shrouded in silence. Victims now have a voice and Britain will never return to the dark days of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.”
Clifford had remained defiant during his trial, dismissing the seven women who said they were assaulted by him between 1966 and 1984 as “fantasists and opportunists” telling “a pack of lies” in an attempt to cash in on the post-Savile climate. His defence team had also criticised the Met for failing in “elementary police work” – yet it was Clifford the jury failed to believe.
One victim was abused several times after Clifford met her family in the Spanish town of Torremolinos in 1977 when she was 15.
She told the court he had impressed her parents with tales of how he could transform her into a star – and how he later abused her in his car. The woman said she considered suicide when Clifford falsely told her he had a photograph of her giving him oral sex, and in 2011 sent him a letter claiming he had made her life “a living hell”. The letter was found in Clifford’s bedside table when his home was searched by police.
In another alleged assault, not on the charge sheet because it was claimed to have occurred abroad, Clifford is said to have forced a 12-year-old girl to masturbate him in a whirlpool bath while on holiday in Spain after befriending her parents.
He impersonated Hollywood executives such as Steven Spielberg or James Bond producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli.
One his victims, a dancer, said she had received a phone call from someone claiming to represent Broccoli telling her to find out if Clifford was circumcised. The publicist assaulted her in a nightclub toilet, forcing her to touch his penis before she fled.
Another victim, a former teenage model, said Clifford groped her when she went to his New Bond Street office for career advice in 1983, bragging that he could get her a part in a Bond movie. He then masturbated while he was on the phone to his wife, and tried to put his penis in her mouth.
Key evidence: the defendant’s member
Just as OJ Simpson’s murder trial is remembered for the size of his hand, which he struggled to fit into a black glove used as evidence, Clifford’s trial will be remembered for the size of a more intimate part of his body.
The issue of Clifford’s penis, variously described in court as “micro” and “enormous”, caused much hilarity. One woman, now 48, told the court how, when she was an aspiring 17-year-old model, Clifford locked her in his office and tried to make her perform oral sex on him. The court had heard claims that Clifford’s penis is no more than two-and-a-half inches when erect. This woman disagreed, saying his penis was very large. But she added: “I have a small mouth. I do, my dentist has always said.”
Dr Ann Coxon stated she had measured Clifford’s penis when flaccid and found it to be just over 5in. The defence claimed the differing lengths recalled by the women suggested they had not seen the publicist’s penis. But as the prosecution said, “The length of a penis, to coin a phrase, is in the eye of the beholder”.