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Former British celebrity publicist Max Clifford, the confidante of the stars who found himself swept up in Britain’s historic sex abuses scandal, has died after collapsing in prison on Sunday (Monday NZ Time). He was 74.
Once one of the most powerful figures in the British entertainment world, Clifford was convicted in 2014 of eight counts of indecent assault stemming from attacks on teenagers dating back more than 40 years. He was serving an eight-year prison sentence on the sex offences from the 1970s and 1980s at Littlehey Prison, in Cambridgeshire, when he died.
Clifford was once as well-known as the celebrities he represented – the go-to guy to get an actor out of trouble in a time of crisis. He advised many on damage control and represented TV mogul Simon Cowell, but he was later convicted of luring young girls into sex by offering them acting roles.
Clifford had denied all the charges and said his accusers were fantasists.
Clifford had been arrested as part of an investigation called Operation Yewtree, a wide-ranging inquiry into alleged sexual offences spurred by the case of Jimmy Savile, a well-known British entertainer accused of the sexual abuse of hundreds of girls and women. He died in 2011.
The Savile allegations shocked Britain and caused a major embarrassment for his employer, the BBC, which had been accused of failing to report on investigations into Savile’s alleged crimes.
Before his own sex crimes charges, Clifford had told The Associated Press that he was receiving calls from many celebrities and entertainers worried they would be caught up in the widening Savile investigation.
“They’re phoning me and saying, ‘Max, I’m worried that I’m going to be implicated’. A lot of them can’t remember what they did last week, never mind 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.
Clifford’s daughter Louise told the Mail on Sunday that her father had first collapsed on Thursday (Friday NZT) in his cell while trying to tidy it. He collapsed again the following day and was taken to a hospital, where suffered a heart attack.
She told the newspaper he had been in a “bad way” in a critical care unit.
“It was just too much,” she said.