Monday 23 April 2018

Harris groped petrified schoolgirl on his lap, court told

Entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. Reuters
Entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. Reuters
Tonya Lee: abuse claims

Alice Philipson

Rolf Harris fondled a "petrified" Australian schoolgirl when she came to Britain on a theatre trip, a court heard.

Tonya Lee, now 43, has waived the usual right to anonymity given to alleged sex offence victims.

Southwark Crown Court heard yesterday that in 1986 the television star met the Australians at London's Heathrow Airport, and later went for dinner at a pub with some of 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.

The jury heard that Mr 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 he touched her genitals over her clothing, and "started to panic" before rushing off to the lavatory.

"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. Ms Lee decided not to tell anyone because Kathy Henkel, the group's artistic director, was friends with Mr Harris, and she felt confused.

When she came out of the lavatory, he was waiting outside, the court heard. Mr Harris got her in "a big bear hug", and put his hand down her top and fondled her breast, the jury was told. He then touched her intimately, the court heard. 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.

Mr 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.

The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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