Rolf Harris dubbed groping ‘octopus’, trial told

VETERAN entertainer Rolf Harris was a “Jekyll and Hyde” character whose fame allowed him to carry out a string of all­eged indecent assaults on under-age girls, a court has heard.

Rolf Harris at court yesterday. Picture: AP

The 84-year-old was even known at an Australian TV channel as “the Octopus” because of the way he put his hands all over women, London’s Southwark Crown Court was yesterday told.

Opening the case against the star, who denies 12 counts of indecent assault between 1968 and 1986, prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, said Harris’s alleged victims were “overawed” by him, saying: “Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable.” She said his fame and reputation meant he was able to carry out “brazen” sexual assaults, often when other people were present or nearby.

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Ms Wass said: “There is a Jekyll and Hyde nat­ure to Rolf Harris, and this dark side of Rolf Harris was obviously not apparent to all of the other people he met during the course of his work, and it was not apparent to those who may want to testify to his good character.”

The prosecutor said it was “a side of him which is sexually attracted to children and under-age girls” and “a side which gave him the confidence to molest girls knowing they could not object and, even if they did, nobody would believe them”.

She said: “You will hear from a make-up artist from Channel 7 in Australia that Rolf Harris’s reputation was such that he was known as “the Octopus” because of the way that he would put his hands all over women.”

Harris listened intently to the proceedings through a hearing loop as the prosecution case was outlined. His wife, Alwen, and other members of his family sat in the public gallery.

Ms Wass told the court a number of alleged victims will give evidence, four of whom are the subject of charges on the indictment, and others who are supporting witnesses.

“The chances of so many people making up similar falseallegations are just ludicrous,” she told the jurors.

Seven of the 12 counts are alleged to have been carried out on one victim – his daughter’s friend – who lived near the Harris family in south London in the 1960s.

Another woman – with whom Harris admits he had an affair when she was an adult – claims she was abused from the age of 13 for 15 years.

The woman, who it is claimed was groomed like “a young puppy who had been trained to obey”, is the subject of seven of the counts Harris is facing, and alleged she was first abused while on holiday in 1978.

Ms Wass said: “You will hear during the course of this case other instances where Mr Harris touched children and women alike in quite brazen circumstances. It may be that that was part of the excitement, knowing that he could do that and get away with it.”

She said the girl’s parents trusted Harris, adding: “Rolf Harris was a pillar of society, a well-respected man and somebody who was well known for being fond of children”.

One charge relates to a woman who claims Harris groped her when she was seven or eight years old.

The trial continues.