Gary Glitter is arrested in Vietnam over 'obscene acts with a child'

Dumpy and bald, the former singer is unrecognisable as the defiant glam-rock icon of the Seventies
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The Independent Online

Gary Glitter, the strutting showman who once dominated the charts but fell catastrophically from grace after being jailed for child porn offences, was arrested in Vietnam last night.

The singer had been wanted by police over allegations of "obscene acts with a child" - which could carry a penalty of up to five years in jail - and he was arrested as he tried to board a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Glitter, whose real name is Paul Gadd, had been living in south-east Asia, apart from a short spell in Cuba, since leaving Britain shortly after his release from prison in early 2000.

He had fled his rented home in Vietnam a week ago after allegations surfaced over his relationships with two teenage girls. A 15-year-old girl found at the property has been interviewed by the Vietnamese authorities.

Last night's arrest is the latest sorry instalment in 61-year-old Glitter's long downfall, after once enjoying the high life as one of the most famous stars in Britain. With a string of hits such as "Leader of the Gang" and "I Love You Love Me Love", he was a regular fixture on Top of the Pops during the 1970s. Tottering around on silver platform boots, sporting huge shoulder pads and a shock of gravity-defying black hair, he was at the forefront of the wave of glam-rock acts.

Now dumpy, bald and bearded, he is virtually unrecognisable as the charismatic showman of old, and even as the defiant figure who just under six years ago hosted an impromptu press conference following his release from prison. His latest arrest came a week after the News of the World tracked the singer down to his villa in the resort town of Vung Tao, south of Ho Chi Minh City. The paper claimed he was living with two 14-year-old girls.

Yesterday it emerged that the Vietnamese police had launched a criminal investigation into the singer, who had been living in the town since March, and he was arrested hours later. Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last week that Glitter had applied for permanent resident status in the country, but a spokesman for the department warned that "very strict legal measures" would be applied if there was evidence of a crime.

Until Glitter's troubles began, he continued touring each year with a well-attended series of Christmas shows. But in 1997 his world imploded when he was found to have images of child porn on a home computer he had taken for repair. He was convicted of possession of the images two years later and received a 10-week sentence, serving two months. His reputation tarnished for ever, he headed out of Britain after his release.

The singer who was once an effervescent show-off retired from performing and sought to keep a low profile, although his efforts have been continually hampered by journalists who managed to track him down. He was expelled from Cambodia in 2002, although no specific reason was given for his deportation.

While ownership of a Glitter album is now considered a huge embarrassment, he had achieved an astonishing level of success by the mid-1970s, having sold 18 million records. But as the glam fad faded, he struggled to maintain his position in the public's affections in the disco era.

After divorcing his wife of nine years, Ann, with whom he had two children, he spent some time living in Australia. Glitter eventually went bankrupt at the tail end of the decade, owing £170,000, but he staged a comeback in the 1980s, scoring a hit with his "Another Rock and Roll Christmas".

He then rebuilt his career by tapping into the student market, who embraced his high-camp image for its irony and flocked to his college gigs. Further income came from advertising campaigns for Heinz Soup and British Rail, tapping into his naffness, but he hit paydirt when he dreamt up the Christmas spectaculars.