Tuesday 16 January 2018

Harris sings to jurors and tells of his disgust over sexual encounters

Rolf Harris with wife Alwen outside court yesterday. Getty Images
Rolf Harris with wife Alwen outside court yesterday. Getty Images
Artist and television personality Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court with his daughter Bindi Harris (L) and wife Alwen Hughes (2nd R) on May 27, 2014 in London. Getty Images

Martin Evans in London

Rolf Harris gave jurors a rendition of 'Jake the Peg' yesterday when he took to the witness box to deny sexually abusing a series of girls and young women.

The 84-year-old Australian sang a verse from his 1965 hit song before going on to demonstrate how a wobble board works at the start of his defence case at Southwark Crown Court.

But the light-hearted mood changed as the children's entertainer denied sexually abusing a 13-year-old friend of his daughter at the height of his fame. Mr Harris claimed he had embarked on an affair with the girl after she turned 18, saying she had instigated the relationship by flirting with him.

He said he was flattered when the teenager showed an interest in him, but said he was now deeply ashamed and sickened by what he had done.

Mr Harris said the girl, who is one of four alleged victims, had been a friend of his daughter Bindi. In 1978, when she was 13, the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, accompanied the family on holiday to Canada, Hawaii and Australia. It was while they were in Hawaii she claims Mr Harris first groped her as she got out of the shower.

Jurors have been told this was the start of a series of indecent assaults.

Mr Harris vehemently denied the indecent assaults, insisting that their relationship began years later and was consensual.

Describing how the affair started, he said the girl had been staying at their house in Bray, Berkshire, and he had taken her a cup of tea in the morning.

"She was awake. I put the tea down and she grabbed my elbow as if to indicate she wanted me to sit on the bed, which I did," he said. "She slid over a little bit and then she kicked the duvet off her feet to reveal her legs were bare. She had no pyjamas on. It seemed to me she was being very flirtatious. As you can imagine, it was a very flattering feeling."

Mr Harris went on: "I touched the outside of her leg and I can remember my heart was thumping away like mad and I did not know what to do. I got up and left the room."

The court heard that on the next occasion she stayed at the home, they took things further. Asked by his barrister, Sonia Woodley, if the girl was a willing participant, Mr Harris replied: "Yes she was."

With his wife, Alwen, looking on from the public gallery, Mr Harris said: "I find it very hard to discuss this. It's highly embarrassing." Asked why, he replied: "A married man, a much younger girl; I shouldn't have been doing it."

Mr Harris said he later apologised to her over the affair, telling jurors: "I felt I had let everybody down. I felt I had let Alwen down, and Bindi down and [the alleged victim's] parents down, so I said, 'please forgive me' and she said, 'I forgive you'."

Mr Harris denies 12 counts of indecent assault. The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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