Rolf Harris accuser 'flirtatious'

Last updated 08:16 14/05/2014

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Far from being a helpless teenage victim of abuse, the main accuser of Rolf Harris was a dominant, flirtatious woman whose ‘sexual chemistry’, jealousy and provocative behaviour lured him into an adult affair, a court has heard.

And when she eventually claimed that Harris had abused her as a girl, she was trying to deflect the blame when confronted by her parents about her alcoholism, Harris’ defence lawyer said, to the witness’ denials.

"You had to find a reason why it was not your fault you were drinking, other than blame yourself," Sonia Woodley QC said. "You decided to put the blame on Rolf Harris and say he turned you into an alcoholic.

"You knew perfectly well you had a consensual relationship with him, but once you had told that story you had to stick with it."

Harris, 84, has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault. Seven of those charges related to the complainant currently in the witness stand.

On Tuesday, the 84-year-old Australian entertainer’s barrister painted a very different picture of the woman who on Monday claimed she was abused by Harris from the age of 13, until she ended the relationship at age 29.

On Monday the 49-year-old woman, giving evidence behind a curtain in a low voice, described herself as excruciatingly shy, and too terrified of Harris to complain about his repeated abuse of her, even as he ruined her life.

But on Tuesday she faced cross-examination by Woodley, who described a bossy, confident girl and flirty young woman, used to getting her way.

Woodley described the complainant as a "determined, obstinate" and "argumentative" child, who was not shy with people once she got to know them.

She once refused to eat anything but Marmite on toast, and another time would only eat roast dinners, Woodley said.

The complainant denied Woodley’s claim that she would swear at her parents, who would "give into your whims".

Woodley challenged the complainant’s account of the first times Harris allegedly assaulted her, when she was on holiday in Hawaii and Australia. She showed the complainant her private diary in which she recorded having a "great day", the same day she later claimed he attacked her. 

Woodley read from the diary, which recorded a typical Hawaiian holiday of snorkeling, swimming tourism and shopping.

"There is no mention or hint in the diary of anything unpleasant happening to you," Woodley said. "You said the day was great. You didn’t give any clue or hint of unhappiness."

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The complainant replied: "I wouldn’t put it in a diary … I made it seem better in the diary". Later she said the diary wasn’t intended to be a record of her most private thoughts.

Woodley also took the complainant through a morning at Harris' home in the UK, when she claimed Harris came in with a cup of tea and performed oral sex on her while his daughter Bindi was asleep in another bed only a few metres away.

Woodley said Bindi was a light sleeper.

"There was quite a bit of activity, you were crying silently, you spoke to (Harris) telling him to stop it, you (pretended to) have an orgasm, and that appeared to pass Bindi by?" Woodley asked.

"Apparently so," the witness replied.

Woodley said the incident never happened, or took place much later without Bindi present and after the complainant was 18 and consenting to sex.

The witness denied this. However, she accepted it was "possible" she couldn’t remember some times and dates, and some of the abuse happened after her 16th birthday.

Woodley asked several times why the complainant repeatedly turned up in locations where she knew Harris would be, and why she didn’t try harder to avoid getting close to Harris after she alleges he had begun to abuse her.

"I could have done I suppose – I wish I had," the complainant said. "I was just scared of him and did what he wanted.  … I just felt I had to do it.

"I didn’t really have a level of resistance."

The complainant said she drank alcohol to calm her nerves, and was usually affected by alcohol during her encounters with Harris.

Woodley said the complainant started flirting with Harris when she was 18 because she was jealous of Bindi's new friend - which the complainant denied, saying "absolutely not".

On a later occasion "there was sexual chemistry between the two of you ... one thing led to another and oral sex took place, him on you," Woodley said. "You consented to that."

The complainant replied "no, I didn't".

Woodley said on several occasions, as an adult, the complainant would initiate sexual contact with Harris.

"I suggest that from the age of 18 there was a consenting sexual relationship between you and Rolf Harris,” Woodley said. “You said this happened when you were much younger and you were not consenting. It actually happened when you were older and you were consenting."

"No," replied the complainant.

The complainant also denied threatening Harris after the end of the affair unless he gave her boyfriend £25,000 for a bird sanctuary.

"You said ‘keep your eyes on the papers because my brother will get in touch with them’," Woodley said. "I never said that," the complainant said.

At the end of her cross-examination, Mr Justice Sweeney told the complainant she was finished in the witness stand.

"Thank you," she replied. "Thank you, thank you."

The trial at Southwark Crown Court continues.


- Sydney Morning Herald

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