Alleged Harris victim ‘developed eating disorder’

Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls. Picture: Getty
Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls. Picture: Getty
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An ASPIRING theatre star developed an eating disorder after the “petrified” 15-year-old was groped by entertainer Rolf Harris, a jury has heard.

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

She said 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.

Ms Lee said: “I just wasn’t there any more, I lost that passion.”

Southwark Crown Court heard that Harris met the performers from the Shopfront Theatre Youth Group when they arrived at London’s Heathrow Airport in May that year.

He later went for dinner at a pub with them.

Ms Lee had been singing, and said the veteran performer told her she had “a lovely voice” and invited her to sit on his lap.

She said: “I could feel that there was some movement happening beneath me. He was moving back and forth rubbing against me.

“It was very subtle, it wasn’t big movements. Everything just seemed to be going on as

The jury of six men and six women was told that Harris started to pat her on the thigh, and then: “He began to move his hand up my inner thigh.”

She said she felt “very uncomfortable” as Harris touched her over her clothing, and she “started to panic” before rushing off to the toilet.

When she came out of the toilet, Harris was waiting outside, the jury heard.

The alleged victim said: “He came up and I don’t know the exact words but it was something like ‘I just want to chat to you some more’.

“I was intimidated because I felt quite claustrophobic.”

Harris got her in “a big bear hug”, and put his hand down her top, it is claimed.

Ms Lee said: “I was petrified… I was in shock.”

She added: “I felt stuck. I felt like I couldn’t move. I was petrified, I froze.”

Harris then touched her intimately, it is claimed.

Ms Lee said: “I just wanted to burst into tears at that stage, and I just wanted to run.”

She added: “I was gobsmacked, I was shocked. Completely in disbelief.”

Ms Lee said she thought no-one would believe her “because it was Rolf Harris” and that she became “an empty vessel” after the alleged abuse.

“I was wondering why I was picked out of all those other people,” she said.

She decided not to tell her “protective” mother, because she had pushed for permission to go on the trip.

Earlier, Ms Lee had told the court: “She was very hesitant to let me go. She had always been quite a protective mother.”

She added: “I just convinced her that I’d be safe and I’d be in good hands.”

Ms Lee claimed her ex-boyfriend encouraged her to sell her story about Harris’s alleged sex attack, but said cashing in on the abuse had been a “huge mistake”.

She told jurors she finally plucked up the courage to tell police about the abuse last May, after it emerged Harris was being questioned by police on sex abuse allegations.

But she claimed she was quickly overwhelmed with the press and was encouraged by her then boyfriend, Fian McDaid, to enlist the help of Max Markson, a famous Australian celebrity publicist.

The mother-of-three eventually agreed to sell her story about the alleged abuse for A$60,000 (£33,000) to a magazine and a TV show – but claims she has only received A$28,000 (£15,400) herself.

Asked by Sasha Wass QC, prosecuting, whose idea it was to sell her story, she said: “Fian. Fian and Max.”

Under cross-examination, she admitted telling police “a barefaced lie” by pretending not to be talking to the media, when in fact she was.

She choked up with tears as she told jurors that accepting cash for the story was a “huge mistake” she regrets.

The case continues.