Thursday 25 December 2014

Rolf Harris 'fondled UK trip schoolgirl', court told

Margaret Davis, Press Association Crime Correspondent

Published 20/05/2014 | 13:27

File photo dated 8/5/2014 of Rolf Harris who is standing trial at  Southwark Crown Court where he is accused of a string of indecent assaults.  PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday May 19, 2014. The 84-year-old is charged with assaulting four girls, the youngest of whom was seven or eight and the oldest aged 19 between 1968 and 1986, which he denies. See PA story COURTS Harris. Photo credit should read: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Rolf Harris
Veteran Australian entertainer Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court
Veteran Australian entertainer Rolf Harris
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Rolf Harris in the dock at Southwark Crown Court, London as a witness gives evidence behind a curtain watched by the judge
Harris is charged with indecent assault, and denies the charges
Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris arrives with daughter Bindi (left) and wife Alwen at Southwark Crown Court, London
Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris arrives with daughter Bindi (left), wife Alwen and niece Jenny (right) at Southwark Crown Court, London where where he faces charges of alleged indecent assaults on under-age girls

Entertainer Rolf Harris fondled a "petrified" Australian schoolgirl when she came to the UK on a theatre trip, a court has heard.

Tonya Lee, 43, who has waived the usual right to anonymity given to alleged sex offence victims, claims that Harris touched her after she travelled to Britain for the tour in 1986.

Harris met the group when they landed at London's Heathrow Airport, and later went for dinner at a pub with them.

Ms Lee, then aged 15, said she was invited to sit on the entertainer's lap, and that his hand began to creep up her thigh.

She said: "I could feel that there was some movement happening beneath me. He was moving back and forth rubbing against me.

"It was very subtle, it wasn't big movements. Everything just seemed to be going on as normal."

The jury at London's Southwark Crown Court was told that Harris started to pat her on the thigh, and then: "He began to move his hand up my inner thigh."

She said she felt "very uncomfortable" as Harris touched her genitals over her clothing, and "started to panic" before rushing off to the toilet.

"I was wondering what to do, 'How can I get out of this?', and also I was confused. The whole time this was happening just normal interaction was going on," she told the court.

The alleged victim said Harris continued "laughing" with other people while touching her.

Ms Lee decided not to tell anyone because theatre director Kathy Henkel was friends with Harris, and she felt confused.

When she came out of the toilet, Harris was waiting outside, the court heard.

The alleged victim said: "He came up and I don't know the exact words but it was something like 'I just want to chat to you some more'.

"I was intimidated because I felt quite claustrophobic."

Harris got her in "a big bear hug", and put his hand down her top and fondled her breast, the jury of six men and six women was told.

Ms Lee said: "I was petrified... I was in shock."

She added: "I felt stuck. I felt like I couldn't move. I was petrified, I froze. I was against the wall and a pot plant and he had one arm around me so it looked like a hug."

Harris then touched her intimately, the court heard.

Ms Lee said: "I just wanted to burst into tears at that stage, and I just wanted to run."

She added: "I was gobsmacked, I was shocked. Completely in disbelief."

Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies. Three of the charges relate to Ms Lee's claims.

Ms Lee said after the alleged assault she rushed back into the toilet.

"I was quite emotional, so many thoughts were running through my head. I couldn't believe what had happened. I felt disgusting. I did not know who to talk to."

She said she thought no-one would believe her "because it was Rolf Harris", but that she became "an empty vessel" after the alleged abuse.

She developed an eating disorder, losing 9lb-13lb (4kg-6kg) in weight during the tour, and said she blamed herself for the alleged assaults.

"I was wondering why I was picked out of all those other people," she said.

She decided not to tell her "very protective" mother, because she had pushed for permission to go on the trip.

Earlier, the court heard: "She was very hesitant to let me go. She had always been quite a protective mother."

Ms Lee added: "I just convinced her that I'd be safe and I'd be in good hands."

After the trip, she stopped going to the theatre group because she had "lost that passion", and her schoolwork suffered, the jury was told.

Press Association

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