Cliff Richard believes police tipped off press about search of his apartment

Sir Cliff Richard has claimed that police tipped off the press about the search of his Berkshire home in relation to historic allegations of a sexual assault.

But a spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: "The BBC had their own sources. The information was not released by South Yorkshire Police."

BBC News cameras were on hand yesterday as unmarked police cars arrived at Richard's home at 10.30am. The corporation also had a helicopter hovering over Richard's home which filmed police at work.

The Daily Mail today described the BBC's access to the search as "extraordinary". But a BBC spokeswoman told Press Gazette that they do not comment about sources and that in any case they believed the BBC found out about the raid at the same time as other media.

The police have previously come under fire for refusing to confirm the names of individuals who have been questioned. 

Speaking out as police searched his apartment Richard said: "For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online.

"The allegations are completely false. Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.

"However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press.

"I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will cooperate fully should the police wish to speak to me.

"Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded."

In April 2013, The Sun defied threats from lawyers to reveal that Rolf Harris had been questioned by officers on Operation Yewtree. At the time police declined to confirm his identity.

Richard, who is rumoured to be in Portugal, issued a statement via his representatives after widespread media coverage of the search of his home.

South Yorkshire Police confirmed officers entered the property today in relation to the alleged sexual assault of a boy under 16 in the 1980s and that nobody had been arrested.

It is understood that the singer's lawyers have been in contact with the force.

The search is not connected to Scotland Yard's Operation Yewtree, launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: "South Yorkshire Police has gained entry to a property in the Sunningdale area of Berkshire.

"Officers are currently searching the property.

"A search warrant was granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s involving a boy who was under the age of 16 at the time.

"No one has been arrested and the owner of the property was not present."

Thames Valley Police confirmed that it had helped the South Yorkshire force with the execution of the search warrant.

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