CHILD SEX SHAME OF ARTHUR C.CLARKE; Just three days before Prince Charles knights him... 2001 Space Odyssey genius admits paying young boys.
The 80-year-old academic, due to be knighted by Prince Charles on Wednesday, has admitted for the first time his secret life as a paedophile.
And he told Sunday Mirror investigators how he believes the children enjoy early physical experiences and are not harmed by them.
Clarke's interest in boys stretches back over the 40 years he has lived in Sri Lanka, the Indian Ocean island.
He meets poverty- stricken boys who are easily persuaded by men to become partners for 1,000 rupees, just pounds 10.
Last night a child protection group on the island - where there are an estimated 12,000 child prostitutes - called for Clarke to be investigated.
And back in Britain there was pressure for him to be stripped of his knighthood.
Clarke has written more than 80 books about space travel and science fiction, and has been hailed as the 20th Century's prophet and is consulted by world leaders.
But at his luxury beach house in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, he said: "I'm trying to think of the youngest boy I have ever had because, of course, you can't tell here. It is very difficult here."
When he was asked what was the age of the youngest boy he ever had a liaison with, Clarke said: "Most of them had reached the age of puberty."
He added: "I mean I have never had
the slightest interest in children - boys or girls. They should be treated in the same way but once they have reached the age of puberty then it is OK." Boys normally reach puberty between 11 and 13-years-old, two years later than girls.
Clarke added: "I don't think anyone should have a relationship unless it is entirely free and open and the boy will know what he is doing."
Asked if he had had sexual relationships with them he said simply: "Yes"." He added: "I know once many, many years ago when I first came here I did and the going rate was about two rupees. Money has never been part of a relationship. But when you are fond of them you give them money or a watch or something."
To the outside world, he is a pillar of respectability, having rubbed shoulders with an array of world leaders and showbiz stars.
So respected is he in Sri Lanka - formerly Ceylon - that he was the first foreign celebrity to be given tax-free status by the country. He is also Chancellor of Colombo's Moratuwa University. Certainly Prime Minister Tony Blair had no doubts when he named Clarke as a Sir in his New Year's Honours list.
Prince Charles flies to Colombo tomorrow in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations of the country's independence. He is due to give Clarke his knighthood at the High Commission on Wednesday.
Several members of Clarke's family have flown in specially for the occasion.
Prince Charles first met Clarke in the late 1960s at the British premiere of his film 2001: A Space Odyssey, for which he received an Oscar nomination.
Clarke already has the CBE for his services to British cultural interests in Sri Lanka.
He is patron of the local Surfers and Lifesavers' Association, a position that gives him easy access to teenage beach boys. In Sri Lanka homosexuality is against the law and punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years' jail AND a flogging.
A Buckingham Palace spokesman said last night: "Knight Bachelor honours are conferred on the advice of Ministers.
"As far as we are aware the investiture is still going ahead."
Harold Brooks-Baker, editor of Burke's Peerage and an expert on titles, said the Queen could take away the honour and called for Tony Blair to intervene.
Constitutional expert Lord St John of Fawsley said: "As far as people losing titles goes, it does happen from time to time but it's quite rare."