Monday 20 November 2017

'He assaulted me out of nowhere,' - Rolf Harris accuser tells court before breaking down in tears

Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court
Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court

An alleged victim of Rolf Harris has broken down in tears as she told a jury the entertainer assaulted her "out of nowhere".

The woman, giving evidence from behind a screen at Southwark Crown Court, claims Harris molested her when she went to get his autograph at a community centre near Portsmouth at one point between 1968 and 1970.

She told the jury that when she got to the front of the queue, Harris crouched down, signed her piece of paper and then touched her bottom and vagina.

"He was looking at me, smiling, and I was smiling, looking excited, and suddenly out of nowhere I felt his hand go down the back and up between my legs," the woman told the court.

She said she thought the first time might have been an accident, but claimed he did it a second time "aggressively".

"It was very quick," the woman said. "In fact so quick that I thought, 'what's happened?'. The first time I thought, no, not deliberate. I thought, 'what's going on?', because there were a lot of people around and I didn't process what had happened.

"He seemed such a nice man, I thought probably it was just an accident."

But then Harris allegedly touched her again, "aggressively and forcefully".

"It didn't matter if it was going to hurt me or not. It felt very agressive and I knew that it wasn't an accident," she said.

The woman, who is 52, said she thought, "whoa, I just need to get away". Breaking down, she told the court she "wasn't the same child" after the alleged abuse.

When asked how long she had memories of it, she said: "Forever. I can hear a song or something from that era and go straight back. I can shut my eyes and go straight back."

Harris, in a light grey checked suit, with a white shirt and yellow tie, listened impassively from the glass-walled dock as the woman gave evidence.

His wife Alwen did not attend court today, but other family members watched from the public gallery.

The woman said she remembered the alleged incident taking place around the time of the moon landing, and that Harris had performed Two Little Boys at the event.

She had not seen an autograph book before, but a friend gave her a piece of paper so she could queue up with other fans.

She said: "He leaned into me and wrote on it, and I took the piece of paper and the next I know I felt his hand.

"He was very, very close, he was leaning into me. I thought he was being accommodating to a small child."

The woman said she could not call out about what had happened. "I understood that it was wrong. I wanted to scream out, 'what are you doing?', but it didn't come out.

"I didn't know how to put it into words. He scared me because he was looking at me all the time. His eyes were fixed and I kind of backed away, and I sat on a chair trying to process what was going on and looking at him carrying on as if nothing had happened."

She recalled Harris having "big hairy hands".

The court heard that the woman told her family, husband and friends about the claimed abuse.

She said: "Whenever Rolf Harris was on the telly I couldn't watch it, so people in the room had to know why and I would tell them why. My children grew up knowing why and my husband knew and my friends knew why."

The woman said when she told her husband, "I said Rolf Harris was a dirty old man because he had put his hand on my bottom and between my legs when I was a little girl."

When Harris was named as having been arrested under sex crimes inquiry Operation Yewtree in the Sun in April last year, she sent her husband a text message to say, "I told you so", the court heard.

In a statement read to the court, the woman's husband recalled the first time she told him about the alleged abuse, saying: "I was shocked when she told me this, I had always liked Rolf Harris and I was taken aback when she told me."

Another statement was read from a counsellor who also said the woman told her about the claims. Defending, Sonia Woodley QC put it to the woman that Rolf Harris had never been to the community centre in question, but the woman denied this.

In re-examination, prosecutor Sasha Wass QC asked her what she had to gain by lying. She said: "Nothing to gain whatsoever except for closure on the incident that happened to me."

Press Association

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