‘Harris is a predator who duped us all’Comment on this story
He was one of our best-loved entertainers, charming the nation’s children and the Queen alike over five decades.
Yet all the while Rolf Harris was exploiting his wholesome image to sexually prey on dozens of women and girls as young as seven.
On Monday, the 84-year-old was facing the rest of his life behind bars after a jury convicted him of being a predatory paedophile. Prosecutors say Harris believed his fame placed him above the law - he acted “in plain sight and without fear of consequences”.
His victims included his daughter’s 13-year-old friend.
After his eight-week trial ended on Monday, it can be revealed that:
- Harris may have abused up to 37 women, including a celebrity who was molested live on air while she interviewed him;
- He faces fresh police investigations in Britain and Australia where dozens of possible victims have emerged;
- His initial police interview and later arrest remained a secret for months because of bullying tactics used by his lawyers who quoted the Leveson inquiry;
- Harris is set to be stripped of his CBE and other honours;
- The NSPCC has received 28 calls about him, involving 13 people who claim they were abused;
- The dramatic conviction on Monday raises the prospect of victims suing him for damages.
The Australian-born star betrayed little emotion as he was convicted of all 12 counts of indecent assault relating to four girls aged seven to 19.
He sat motionless, staring straight ahead as the unanimous verdicts were returned after 30 hours of deliberations following the trial at Southwark Crown Court in south London.
He left the court without a word, glancing at his wife with his eyebrows raised as he gave her a half-hearted wave.
His devoted wife of 56 years, Alwen Hughes, 82, battled to maintain her composure, with only the muscles in her jaw working furiously and betraying her inner turmoil.
His daughter Bindi Nicholls, 50, who stood by her father despite his abuse of her best friend leaving her suicidal at one point, tightly grasped her aunt Jenny’s arm for support, blinking back tears.
Later, he linked arms with his wife, daughter and niece as they faced the cameras outside, remaining silent as he was asked whether he would apologise to his victims.
On Monday night his daughter’s best friend said: “I’m very relieved, that’s all I’m prepared to say.”
Another victim, BBC reporter Letitia Fitzpatrick, said: “I’m so relieved for all the women who came forward and all of those who haven’t, to see him being exposed for what he is - a predatory paedophile, an opportunistic sexual predator.”
Harris could face years behind bars as each of the 12 counts carries a possible 10-year sentence.
Releasing him on unconditional bail, Mr Justice Sweeney warned him: “Given the conviction on all 12 counts it is inevitable that the type of sentence that is upmost in the court’s mind is a custodial sentence, and he must understand that.”
During his trial, the court heard that Harris had hidden the dark side of his “Jekyll and Hyde” personality.
Carefully concealing the “demon lurking beneath his charming exterior” he used his fame to beguile innocent and impressionable young fans mesmerised by his talent.
He groomed his daughter’s best friend for 16 years, assaulting her while Bindi, 16, slept just metres away.
The years of abuse transformed the girl from a care-free child from a prosperous middle-class family to an alcoholic teenager who spiralled into depression and despair.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC described his victim, now 49, as a “damaged and emotionally dead creature”, adding: “He used her for his sexual gratification like she was a blow-up doll.”
Throughout the case, Harris maintained it was she who had seduced him at the age of 18 when he was 53. But the star’s damning letter - written to her father in 1997 begging for forgiveness - told a different story.
His other victims included a seven-year-old autograph hunter he “aggressively fondled” after performing his hit Two Little Boys in 1969. He also molested a 14-year-old waitress during filming of a celebrity knockout show in Cambridge in 1978 and 15-year-old child actress Tonya Lee during a youth theatre tour in 1986.
A further six women gave evidence as supporting witnesses for the prosecution about the cartoonist dubbed “the Octopus” in TV circles for his wandering hands.
Seven other victims - including a celebrity who was molested as she interviewed him live on TV - gave statements but were not called as witnesses.
On Monday, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Orchard said: “He committed many offences in plain sight of people as he thought his celebrity status placed him above the law.”
Jenny Hopkins, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor in London, said: “Each victim, unknown to the others, described a similar pattern of behaviour; that of a man acting without fear of the consequences.”
Harris was bailed until Friday when he will be sentenced.
Harris faces being stripped of a string of honours awarded by the Queen and will lose his Bafta fellowship following his convictions for indecent assault.
In an astonishing fall from grace for the man who painted the Queen’s portrait and sang in her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, Buckingham Palace is likely to revoke his MBE, OBE, CBE and Officer of the Order of Australia.
A government source said on Monday night Harris’s case is to be considered by the independent honours forfeiture committee.
“Honours are usually taken away if sentences are above three months, so it would look almost certain in this case,” the source added.