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VIDEO: Harris facing prison term after guilty verdicts

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Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris saw his decades in the spotlight end in disgrace yesterday as he was found guilty of indecent assault.

The 84-year-old, once a much-loved artist and musician, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of 12 sex charges involving four women.

His army of supporters, including suited security guards and representatives from PR giant Bell Pottinger who attended every day of the trial, could do nothing to change the verdict of the jury of six men and six women.

Once seen by a UK audience as a national treasure, Harris had enjoyed years of success, netting him a multi-million pound fortune and the chance to paint the Queen.

But the downfall of an entertainer who was part of millions of British childhoods came yesterday, as Harris became the biggest scalp claimed by detectives from high-profile sex crime investigation Operation Yewtree.

Dozens more alleged victims have come forward during the trial, including several in Australia, and Scotland Yard has been in touch with their counterparts in the Australian police, but it is not yet clear whether they are pursuing any investigation in Harris’s home country.

The NSPCC said it has received 28 calls relating to Harris to date, involving 13 people who claim they fell prey to the performer.

Harris remained impassive as the forewoman delivered the unanimous verdicts.

His daughter Bindi held hands with a fellow supporter, and wife Alwen and niece Jenny also watched from the public gallery as his fate was sealed.

The performer was released on bail until Friday when he will be sentenced.

Justice Sweeney warned the 84-year-old that given the conviction on all 12 counts it was “inevitable” that a custodial sentence would be possible.

“He must understand that,” he said, to which Harris’s barrister Sonia Woodley replied: “He does appreciate that.”

The judge told the jury: “During the case you will have had to grapple with a side of life which I suspect you would prefer not to have had to grapple with.

“You have done so in the face of daily attention of large numbers of members of the media representing the public and observation of how you have conducted yourselves.”

He excused them from jury service for 10 years.

Outside the courtroom, a tearful Bindi was seen walking the corridor with Alwen and Jenny, near where her father had been taken into a side room with his legal team.

During the trial, the court also heard from six other witnesses who claimed they had been groped by Harris, but were not part of the criminal charges.

The first claimed she was 11 or 12 when she was off sick from school at a family friend’s home in 1969, when Harris told her “I want to be the first person to introduce you to a tongue kiss”.

He then allegedly got her in “a gentle hug” before sticking his tongue into her mouth.

A second, then aged 16 or 17, was waitressing at an event in New Zealand in 1970 when she claimed the entertainer put his hand on her bottom and between her legs.

She said: “I saw the dark side of a man who I thought could be trusted.”

The third supporting witness was aged 18 when she was on holiday in Malta in 1970 when her boyfriend cut his foot while swimming in the sea and Harris helped them to find a doctor.

She claimed that after she went back to thank the artist, he pinned her up against the wall in a back room in a bar, kissing and groping her.

Jurors also heard from a make-up artist who claimed Harris had groped her more than “two dozen” times in a single day in Australia in the mid-1980s.

The woman, then in her 20s, told the court that she later found out Harris’s nickname was “the octopus”.

She said she complained to her female supervisor: “That dirty old man groped me all day. I’m really pissed off.”

Speaking outside court, Detective Chief Inspector Mick Orchard said: “Rolf Harris has habitually denied any wrongdoing forcing his victims to recount their ordeal in public.

“He committed many offences in plain sight of people as he thought his celebrity status placed him above the law.

“I want to thank the women who came forward for their bravery. I hope today’s guilty verdict will give them closure and help them to begin to move on with their lives.”

 

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