By Juliet Bremner: ITV News Correspondent
Singer, artist, television presenter and fondly remembered as the face of many people’s childhoods. But today all these accolades and attributes were swept aside as Rolf Harris added convicted child abuser to the list.
The 84-year-old was found guilty of indecently assaulting women over several decades. One his victims was his daughter’s best friend and aged only 13 when the abuse began.
Throughout the trial the Australian entertainer presented an image of a family man. He arrived at court holding the hand of his wife, Alwen Hughes, and his only daughter, Bindi. But away from the cameras the jury heard that Rolf Harris had sexually assaulted his victims, often publicly and without any hint of remorse.
His daughter’s friend said that he had “ruined her life” and the jury heard that the repeated abuse from the age of 13 until she was 29 had been a campaign of grooming that had sent his victim into “a spiral of self loathing and alcohol abuse.”
The abuse started when the girl was invited to join the Harris family on a holiday to Hawaii and Australia. Rolf Harris approached her as she got out of the shower and appeared to give a big hug and to tickle her before slipping his hands inside the towel and assaulting her.
Mr Harris admitted that he had an affair with he girl but insisted that it had only started when she was 18. The jury heard that at that time the TV star would have been 53.
A letter he wrote to the girl’s father was read to the court; in it Mr Harris admitted that his relationship had been wrong. He said ” I know what I did was wrong, please forgive me,” adding “I am sickened by myself.”
But the woman, who is now 49, said that she found him “creepy and cringed” and denied suggestions by the defence barrister that she had encouraged the relationship.
In court Rolf Harris played up the image of the family friendly joker, treating the jury to version of his song ‘jake the peg’ as he gave evidence. But the prosecution told him he couldn’t sing his way out of these charges.
The prosecution told the court that behind this persona lay “a sinister pervert” whose offending had a patter to it. He was interested in under age girls, he used his celebrity status to get close enough to victims, he enjoyed touching them in a sexual way often in close prolixity to others.
One of his victims is a woman called Tonya Lee, who can be named because she has chosen to waive her anonymity. She sold her story to newspaper and television in her native Australia.
She told the court that she was 15 when she travelled to the UK with her dance group to give some performances. During this trip Rolf Harris was introduced to the girls and on one occasion went to a pub with them.
Here the victims described how he put his hands up her skirt and sexually assaulted her and when she tried to escape to the toilet he followed her and put his hand down her top fondling her breasts