Thursday 26 April 2018

Harris is a 'very handy dirty old man', court hears

Entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. Reuters
Entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in London. Reuters

A teenager told her mother that Rolf Harris, of Bray in Berkshire, was "very handy" after the entertainer allegedly groped her when she was about 15 years old.

She told London's Southwark Crown Court that she was "shocked" when Harris allegedly grabbed her breast and touched her bottom after she met him at a promotion in a small hardware shop in Australia in 1991.

The youngster, then a keen artist, went to shake the TV star's hand after they were introduced but Harris said "give us a hug".

Speaking via video-link, the woman, who has not been named, told the jury: "He put his right hand on my left breast and through my shirt. I had a shirt that was gathered and did not have buttons on the front.

"He put his other hand on my right butt cheek. His hand was over my bra but through my shirt.

"It was very deliberate. I stepped back and he laughed."

She recalled pulling away from him and then making her way back in to the crowd.

Now a mother-of-five, the woman told the court: "I was in shock and I stayed away from him.

When her mother later asked what was wrong, the teenager replied that "he was very handy" and he was "a dirty old man", she recalled.

Her mother asked her if she wanted to explain what had happened but she did not want to say any more.

There were about 20 people in the store where Harris was doing the promotion, drawing cartoons and then greeting people with handshakes when the teenager and her mother arrived.

Harris, 84, is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

The teenager was asked if she wanted to do a drawing with Harris but she refused and did not want to go near him, she said.

She rejected a suggestion by Sonia Woodley QC, defending, that she had decided to "jump on the bandwagon" in making the assault claims.

When Ms Woodley suggested Harris had not indecently touched her, she replied: "He did. I was a very naive young lady. It was extremely unacceptable."

Her mother also claimed that Harris sexually assaulted her on the same day, saying she felt him rubbing his groin against her buttocks as he stood behind her. This was while a photographer was taking a picture at the event.

The mother, who was also giving evidence by videolink, said: "He was very close to me. He was close enough to be rubbing himself up against my buttocks. I do not consider that it happened to me, it was something that was done to me."


She responded by deliberately treading on his foot, she claimed, and turned around and said: "You are a disgusting creature."


The mother told the court that Harris's expression switched from being "smiling and friendly" to an "almost sneer".


She said: "I had challenged him in some way. He was almost acting in disbelief. He was close to me, right into my face, and he said, 'she likes it'."


The mother said she knew he was talking about her daughter.


She claimed Harris seemed to "home in" on her daughter when he arrived at the store. He asked her if she wanted to help him with some drawings.


The mother told the court: "He was in close proximity to her and suddenly she pulled away from him. She seemed to be taken aback by something. Initially she moved away from him.


"I asked her what was wrong. She said, 'mum, he is very handy'.It all happened so quickly."


Ms Woodley suggested that Harris did not touch her while the photograph was being taken and that he did not say that her daughter "liked it".


In response the mother told the court: "Rolf Harris is a dirty old man who certainly did say that. I have had to bear the burden of putting my daughter in that position. It is certainly something I did not make up."


Asked about why she did act on her daughter's allegations earlier, the mother said: "I thought about telling the police however my innocent 15-year-old daughter insisted not to do it. She did not want much fuss."


Earlier, the mother of an aspiring teenage theatre star who claimed she developed an eating disorder after allegedly being groped by Harris as a 15-year-old said her daughter has "never been the same".


Tonya Lee, now 43, who has waived the right to anonymity given to alleged sex offence victims, said Harris touched her when she travelled to Britain from Australia for a tour in 1986.


Her mother, Jean Mulgrew, told the jury that she was not the same when she returned home and she became anorexic and also suffered from bulimia.


Speaking by video-link, she told the court: "I do not remember much but I remember one thing and that is Tonya's life changed and it was for the worse.


"It was when she came back from overseas and she has never been the same since."


Ms Lee has claimed she lost 9lb-13lb (4kg-6kg) after she "stopped eating'' and would "throw up'' during the six-week trip.


After she returned home, she abandoned her dream of becoming a stage star.


The hearing was adjourned.

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