Harris 'victim' speaks out to help others

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014

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A Christchurch woman in the spotlight after speaking out about an alleged sexual assault by disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris says while the exposure has left her feeling "vulnerable", it will be worth it if others are inspired to come forward.

Police will take a formal video statement from Lee Howden, allegedly assaulted by Harris more than 30 years ago, next week.

Harris, 84, was sentenced to five years and nine months prison this week after being found guilty in London on 12 charges of indecently assaulting four girls over nearly 20 years from 1968.

Howden, a former makeup artist for Television New Zealand, alleges she was sexually assaulted by Harris during an interview break in a Christchurch studio in the 1980s.

She told The Press she did not tell anyone about the incident at the time, other than friends, for various reasons, including the "celebrity culture" of the 1980s.

She was also "so grossed out" she did not want to think about the incident, let alone report it.

"It was a slightly different world. The people I worked with at the time . . . would not have been able to do anything about it. I worked with mainly a bunch of guys who would have felt embarrassed if they had known."

Howden was inspired to come forward after National MP Maggie Barry shared her own account of being groped during a radio interview with Harris in the mid-1980s.

Howden said: "I really only did it to encourage others to do the same. The media attention has made me feel quite vulnerable. When something like this happens, you feel like the only one and it is not something you shout from the rooftops."

She would give a formal video statement to police next week.

Witnesses from New Zealand and Australia gave evidence at Harris' trial in London, but he was not charged with offences against them.

The court did not have jurisdiction to prosecute incidents that happened outside Britain.

Howden said she was appalled with Harris' apparent arrogance during the trial and sentencing.

"I was so angry with him . . . trying to jolly people along and not taking any personal responsibility," she said.

"I just hope now that others do come forward. Yes, it is scary. Yes, you feel vulnerable and sometimes question yourself, [but] the police have been incredibly supportive."

Detective Senior Sergeant Darryl Sweeney said police would not comment on the case as it was an active investigation.

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