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Reports: UK publicist Max Clifford questioned on sex abuse claims

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 10:14 AM EST, Fri December 7, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Max Clifford says the allegations are "very damaging" and "totally untrue"
  • NEW: The publicist didn't detail the accusations, except to say they dated from 1977
  • Metropolitan Police say a man in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of sexual offenses
  • A major police inquiry was sparked by a scandal involving late TV host Jimmy Savile

London (CNN) -- Celebrity publicist Max Clifford was arrested Thursday by police investigating sex abuse allegations sparked by a scandal involving a now-deceased TV host, British media reports said.

Surrounded by media as he left Belgravia Police Station later that night, Clifford said the claims against him are "very damaging" while insisting they are "totally untrue."

"These allegations ... are very distressing for myself, my family and my kids," said the publicist, who didn't elaborate on the accusations except to say they dated from 1977.

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"Anyone who really knew me those years ago and those who have known me since will have no doubt that I would never act in the way I have today been accused."

His lawyer earlier confirmed that Clifford -- who is famous in Britain for representing celebrities and members of the public willing to sell kiss-and-tell stories -- was questioned by police but did not say what it regarded.

"Max Clifford is being interviewed by police. Mr. Clifford will assist the police as best he can with their inquiries," said lawyer Charlotte Harris, from the Mishcon de Reya law firm.

London's Metropolitan Police said a man in his 60s was arrested on suspicion of sexual offenses Thursday morning in Surrey, outside London, in connection with the inquiry involving late television personality Jimmy Savile. Those arrested under British law can be held in a cell and questioned, after which they may be released or charged with a crime.

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But the force declined to name the suspect, in line with policy.

The police set up Operation Yewtree to investigate a flood of sex abuse allegations made against Savile and others following a documentary run by broadcaster ITV in October, in which several victims came forward.

Read more: Jimmy Savile: National treasure in life, reviled 'sex abuser' in death

The investigation has three strands, one involving claims against just Savile, another involving "Savile and others," and the third involving only "others."

A police statement said Thursday's arrest fell under the category of "others."

Police believe Savile, who died last October at age 84, sexually abused as many as 300 young women and girls in past decades.

Savile, who hosted popular BBC children's TV programs including "Jim'll Fix It" and "Top of the Pops," was a household name in Britain for decades. He was also well-known for his philanthropy, having raised millions of pounds for charity, and was awarded a knighthood.

Savile's targets were apparently mostly girls in their mid-teens in what authorities have described as alleged abuse on an unprecedented scale, some of it conducted on BBC premises.

CNN's Claudia Rebaza and Stephanie Halasz contributed to this report.

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