Fresh claims of Rolf Harris' sexual abuse

Queenie van de Zandt. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Queenie van de Zandt. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Fresh claims have surfaced against Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, who is expected to be jailed after being found guilty on Monday of 12 charges of indecent assault against four girls.

Australian actor and singer Queenie van de Zandt has told Fairfax Media how she and her friends were allegedly targeted by Harris while working as his back-up singers at a Brisbane concert in 1988.

The performer – who starred in the Melbourne stage version of King Kong last year – was 17 at the time. While she and four other singers, aged between 17 and 21, were waiting at an airport, Harris allegedly approached them and immediately kissed each one.

‘‘I remember thinking, ‘That’s weird; we don’t even know him’,’’ van de Zandt said. ‘‘The very next thing that came out of his mouth was, ‘Has anyone got a boyfriend?’ And one of the girls admitted that she did.

‘‘The next thing he said was, ‘Sex is great, girls. Oh, you wait. You wait ’til you start having sex. It is so great. You will never want to stop once you do.’ ’’

Van de Zandt can’t recall how the conversation ended but believes Harris was called away by a minder.

‘‘I remember we had a bus ride and we were all talking about it going, ‘Oh my god, that is so sleazy’,’’ she said.

Later that evening, van de Zandt found one of her co-singers crying backstage because ‘‘Rolf had done something to her’’. She claims she saw a violin player comfort the singer, then ‘‘storm’’ into Harris’ dressing room and ‘‘tear him a new one’’.

‘‘She swore at him and went nuts and said, ‘If I see you anywhere near these girls for the rest of the night – for the rest of this concert – I will report you to the police’. And he went as white as a sheet and went very wobbly. He didn’t even look at us for the rest of the night.’’

Van de Zandt made the claims on her Facebook and Twitter accounts on Wednesday before speaking to Fairfax Media. She said she suffered sexual abuse herself just one year before the alleged incidents, and believes this may contribute to her incomplete recollection.

Her posts prompted one social media user to claim she had performed at the same Brisbane concert at the age of 16, and was groped by Harris while swimming in a hotel pool.

Van de Zandt said she was stunned to learn through media reports that Harris had committed his crimes over three decades, prompting her to come forward. She has tried to contact her co-singers through social media but has not been able to reach them.

‘‘[Harris is] 84 now, so how many years has he been a perpetrator?’’ she said. ‘‘It’s because we don’t say anything. We actually forget that it’s a crime, a heinous crime, and people commit it all the time. Yet so few people are penalised for it because often they’re an uncle or the best friend’s father or they’re famous."

She said she hoped her post encouraged a more open discussion about sexual abuse.

‘‘We need to share these stories more often so they become less taboo. My own healing didn’t start until I was able to tell that secret. Once I was open about it, the man who sexually abused me had to deal with what he’d done.’’

On Facebook, van de Zandt wrote: ‘‘We need to stop keeping sexual abuse a secret. We need to stop telling children who are sexually abused to not tell anyone so as not humiliate the family ... We need to go to the police more and prosecute the perpetrator. We need to stop looking at it as an awkward, horrible thing to manage ... and start responding to it as a CRIME, which is what it is.’’