Clifford 'a gentleman' - ex-model

Preston and Leyland Citizen: PR guru Max Clifford is accused of a string of indecent assaults PR guru Max Clifford is accused of a string of indecent assaults

A former model has told a court that celebrity agent Max Clifford always behaved "respectfully" towards her as he helped launch her acting career.

Jilly Johnson said she got to know Clifford when she was 17 in the mid-1970s after meeting him at "glamorous parties".

She told London's Southwark Crown Court that the publicist acted as a "mentor" for free as she was offered acting work on television and in the theatre.

Clifford, 70, is standing trial accused of 11 counts of indecent assault against seven girls and women - all of which he denies.

Asked by defence barrister Richard Horwell QC how Clifford behaved towards her, Ms Johnson said: "Respectfully. Nothing untoward or inappropriate. Literally as a mentor, as a guide, a great help.

"He was marvellous."

Ms Johnson, who told the court she would dress "provocatively" in her late teens, said Clifford had never behaved inappropriately towards her.

She added: "I think he is an honourable man. I do not feel he could be, in any way shape or form, not that.

"He's very much a gentleman."

The witness, who said she appeared on light entertainment shows with Jim Davidson and Des O'Connor, told the court she would visit Clifford in his office and call him for advice on her career.

She told the jury: "I would get into a rut or a dead-end alley and pick up the phone and say to Max I have been offered this."

Ms Johnson said Clifford gave "sound advice" and helped her make the "transition" from model to get parts in television comedy programmes.

"He has such experience and he was very professional," she added.

Wearing a blue blazer and white shirt, Clifford, from Hersham in Surrey, listened to the proceedings from the dock with the aid of a hearing loop and smiled at Ms Johnson as she left court.

A woman who used to work at Clifford's New Bond Street headquarters in central London said it was "absolute nonsense" to suggest the office was "sexually charged".

"The atmosphere was great," she said.

"A lot of laughs. Max was a practical joker."

The witness, who cannot be named, said she could not recall a woman she knew telling her that Clifford had exposed his penis to her in his office.

She told the court: "If a friend had said she had been assaulted, I think that is something that would have stuck in my mind."

The woman added: "The Max I knew would never assault someone."

Diedra Taylor, who was a babysitter for Clifford's daughter for five years from 1979, said she came forward to be a character witness after the PR guru was arrested.

She said: "When I was aware Max was arrested, I was quite shocked and astonished.

"I knew, at the time I was a teenager, I always felt comfortable in his company.

"Because I knew him at a similar time to the accusations, I felt it was appropriate I came forward and contact solicitors that represent Max to offer to be a character witness."

Ms Taylor told the court that Clifford would drive her home after she babysat his daughter and he "never" behaved inappropriately.

"He was always very respectful, friendly, but treated me appropriately," she said.

"A little formal maybe but always friendly. I felt very comfortable in his company."

A woman who knew Clifford through his work as a patron with Chase Children's Hospice said the publicist was a "hero" to many young people there.

Tina Tolfrey, whose daughter receives care at the hospice, said Clifford had arranged for her family to meet music mogul Simon Cowell and organised a trip for them to a Disney resort.

The defence witness said Clifford had helped raise "hundreds and hundreds of thousands" of pounds for the hospice, which costs £8.5 million a year to run, and offers families access to "Max's Magic Fund" to organise trips.

He would also arrange for children at the hospice to go to football games and watch recordings of The X Factor, she added.

"He makes dreams come true for the children and their siblings," Ms Tolfrey said.

"He's great fun for them. He's just their hero to a lot of them to be honest.

"The kids would look at him as an uncle figure."

Asked by Mr Horwell if she had seen Clifford behave inappropriately in the 12 years they had known each other, Ms Tolfrey replied: "Absolutely never. Categorically no.

"He's the gentlest, kindest person."

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

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