Entertainer Rolf Harris groped young girls, UK court hears

Fri May 9, 2014 1:32pm EDT
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By Costas Pitas

LONDON (Reuters) - Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, a TV family favourite in his homeland and Britain for more than 50 years, is a "Jekyll and Hyde" figure who groped women and used his fame to abuse girls, a court heard on Friday.

Harris, 84, is the biggest name to go on trial since British police launched a major investigation after revelations that the late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile was a prolific child sex abuser, leading to the arrest of more than a dozen ageing celebrities.

Known to millions in Britain and Australia for pop chart hits such as "Two Little Boys" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport," Harris is also a keen artist who painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait in 2005 and was honoured by her for his services to entertainment and charity. The white-bearded, bespectacled entertainer sat silently in the dock as he was accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls between 1968 and 1986, the youngest of whom was aged just seven or eight at the time of the alleged offence.

Harris denies the charges.

He was accompanied by his daughter Bindi and wife Alwen Hughes when he arrived at Southwark Crown Court on the opening day of what is expected to be a six-week trial.

The jury of six men and six women heard prosecutor Sasha Wass describe Harris as a Jekyll and Hyde figure whose "dark side" was not known to colleagues and companions for decades.

She said Harris had groomed one girl "like a pet", slobbered around the neck of another and ran his hands down a third victim inappropriately in separate incidents, with two girls later becoming alcoholics as a result of the abuse.


Entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court, with his daughter Bindi (L) and wife Alwen Hughes,  in London May 9, 2014.  REUTERS/ Olivia Harris