Rolf Harris dubbed 'the octopus'

2014-05-10 05:30
(Leon Neal, AFP)

(Leon Neal, AFP)

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London - Veteran Australian entertainer Rolf Harris used his status as a much-loved television celebrity to launch a string of sexual assaults on children, a British court heard as his trial began on Friday.

The 84-year-old, a fixture on British screens for decades who once painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, was nicknamed "the octopus" due to his wandering hands, prosecutors said.

Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four female complainants, the youngest of whom was aged seven or eight and the oldest 19, between 1968 and 1986.

He denies the charges.

Family

"Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable," prosecutor Sasha Wass told Southwark Crown Court in London.

"Concealed behind this charming and amicable children's entertainer lay a man who exploited the very children who were drawn to him."

The star's wife Alwen and other family members accompanied him to court.

Harris is the latest in a series of celebrities to face trial in Britain since the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was exposed as a prolific child sex offender in 2012.

Indictments

Harris is well-known as a painter, entertainer and television presenter in both Britain, where he moved in 1952, and his homeland.

One young girl was a friend of Harris's daughter, whom the entertainer allegedly first abused while on holiday in Hawaii when she was 13 and then "groomed like a pet" over many years, the court heard.


Eight alleged victims will give evidence, four of whom are the subject of the indictments against Harris, while the others are supporting witnesses.


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