Rolf Harris guilty: The stories the jury didn't hear

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris is found guilty of 12 charges of indecently assaulting four girls over nearly 20 years from 1968.

Rolf Harris allegedly groped a respected British television presenter on live TV – but the jury in his indecent assault trial never got to hear her story.

The woman, "Miss F", was one of several who came forward with claims about being groped or harassed by Harris, but whose stories were not told in the trial.

One witness was withdrawn by the prosecution with no explanation. For others, the judge ruled their stories would be likely to prejudice the jury unfairly against the entertainer.

Rolf Harris. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Rolf Harris. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Miss F wrote a newspaper article in 2012 about being groped by a “household name” – though she didn’t name him.

She said they were live on air with two TV cameras trained on them, when she felt his hand “inching under my bottom and worming its way beneath my skirt” until his fingers were “grasping at the elastic of my panties”.

She felt unable to confront him or slap him on live TV, and feared a backlash if she went public with her accusations.

During the trial police received an anonymous tip linking Miss F’s story to Harris, and they took a statement from her and found old TV footage of the interview, which the prosecution said showed the moment she was groped.

However the defence argued, in the absence of the jury, that it would be unfair to Harris to allow her evidence to be heard, because they had not had enough time to investigate her claims. They also said it was unclear from the footage what was happening.

Miss F’s story strikes a chord with those of the two high-profile West Australian media figures who accused Harris of groping them after radio interviews.

In May, after the trial had begun, radio host Jane Marwick said Harris had grabbed her breast while posing for a photo after an interview in 2001, when she was 30, and ABC TV newsreader Verity James said Harris assaulted her and a female producer after a radio segment in 2000.

“He kind of pushes you up against a wall in a big hug, grabbing at the buttocks and rubbing on your breasts,” Ms James said.

Ms Marwick said she “was deeply mortified and embarrassed” by the behaviour of a man she said she had previously admired.

In legal argument before the trial it was revealed that others had made claims to police about alleged assault or harassment by Harris.

Because they were not heard in court, the defence did not have the opportunity to cross-examine them or test their claims.  

‘'KB'’ said she was 14 in 1977 when she met Harris, who was in the company of Harry Butler, at a motel which her family ran in Sydney. She claimed Harris grabbed her bottom then followed her into her mother’s room saying “Rolfie deserves a cuddle”. He then followed her to the lift and touched her breasts. Her evidence was ruled admissible in the trial, however, and the prosecution decided not to call her as a witness.

‘'Miss G'’ met Harris during an art class in Belfast and asked if she could interview him for the BBC – she said he pressed against her and stuck his tongue into her mouth. She felt disgusted and dirty, and called him “opportunistic and predatory”, prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, said.

‘'Miss C'’ was 13 or 14 around 1996, and walking around a village fete in Berkshire when she saw Rolf signing autographs. He allegedly called out to her, saying he liked her jumper and wanted to see what was underneath it.

''Ms S'’ was a 24-year-old with psychiatric problems who claimed to have encountered Harris on holiday at a villa in 1999, where she said he met her in a garden and put his hand inside her skirt, then later came into her room and “molested her”.  

‘'Ms H'’ was 20 but “looked younger” in 2001 when she met Harris at an art competition at Kensington Olympia, an exhibition centre in West London. She said he pinched her bottom while they were being positioned for a photograph, and he shrugged when she looked angry.

‘'Miss M'’ was around 14 years old in 2005 and working as a barmaid at a Berkshire pub, where TV personality Michael Parkinson was holding a party. She claimed Harris grabbed her while she was clearing up and – in front of his wife – started to kiss her neck.

Describing the allegations in court, prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, said some of the allegations could not be prosecuted because they were outside UK jurisdiction or “borderline in their criminality”.

Defence counsel Simon Ray said some of the allegations involved situations where there had been consent to what took place, but had been “tinged with the passage of time with regret”.

And he said it would be a “dangerous line” to use hearsay to “vilify the defendant for demonstrating sexual attraction to women much younger than him” but not underage, saying it was an argument “of morality, not criminality”.

Mr Ray also argued that too many such witnesses would be dangerous to the fairness of the trial

The jury was also not permitted to watch a film, recorded by Harris, featuring his wife and daughter asleep or on the cusp of waking up.

In the end the jury were given a short description of the film instead.

The prosecution also were not permitted to show the jury an educational anti-child-abuse video that Harris made in the 1980s for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, though Harris confirmed on the witness stand that he had made it.

In the 20-minute video, titled "Kids Can Say No!", Harris talks to four children about "yes feelings" and "no feelings" and demonstrates situations where children might be in danger from people they knew and trusted, as well as from strangers.

The video was used by schools and health authorities across Britain.