Sir Cliff Richard suffered "episodes of depression" after being accused of sexual abuse.

Sir Cliff Richard

Sir Cliff Richard

The 76-year-old singer was subject to a 22-month long investigation by South Yorkshire Police in 2014 when allegations were made against him by four men who claimed the star assaulted them between 1958 and 1983, and the 'Devil Woman' hitmaker - who eventually had the charges against him dropped - has now said the process left him with "anxiety and illness".

He told an audience of MPs and peers on Monday (17.10.16): "As you would expect, I had trouble carrying on with life as normal. The stress was physical and not just mental.

"Over the course of the 22 months of the investigation, I suffered from episodes of depression.

"As well as my faith, I am fortunate to have an incredible support network which, I have no doubt, I could not have done without.

"But I felt as though I was in a hole and I had no means of escape.

"It was the first thing that I thought of in the morning, and the last at night."

And the 'Summer Holiday' star - who is campaigning for those accused of sex crimes to remain anonymous until they are charged - believes the way the investigation was handled will "forever" taint his reputation.

He added: "Had I not been 'named' worldwide I feel I would still have been able to look people in the eye and not feel afraid that they might be thinking that there is 'no smoke without fire'. Instead, I fear I will forever be tainted by the lurid and intrusive coverage I received."

Whilst the 'We Don't Talk Anymore' singer admits his ordeal would likely have been terrible regardless, he insisted that the way his suspect status was made public "made it all the worse" for him to deal with.

He said during the private meeting: "It takes a horrible toll on you. Some of this was, of course, down to the fact of being under investigation itself, but the fact that the investigation and my status as a suspect had all been made public, and in such an extreme and sensational way, made it all the worse."

And Cliff - who is now suing South Yorkshire Police for naming him in the investigation, as well as the BBC for broadcasting the raid of his Berkshire home live on television - hopes his campaign will help others in the future.

He added: "Anonymity as a person under investigation, prior to charge, would definitely have benefited us all.

"I have spent 75 years living as honourable and as honest a life as I can, but I am all too conscious that some of the mud will stick.

"I sincerely hope that I can play a part in ensuring that no-one else has to suffer in the same way that I have."

It is argued that in naming abuse suspects, victims are encouraged to come forward and report their own ordeals.

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