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Report: Rolf Harris reported in sex abuse inquiry

Last updated 18:06 19/04/2013
Fairfax Australia

TV personality and musician Rolf Harris was reportedly arrested and questioned over historic sexual abuse allegations.

Rolf Harris
DAVID MOIR/ Reuters
ARRESTED: Rolf Harris is under investigation by British police.

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A well-known Australian entertainer arrested in Britain over sex abuse allegations has been publicly named for the first time as Rolf Harris, by British newspaper The Sun.

The Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid reported that 83-year-old Harris was arrested and questioned over historic sex abuse allegations by police investigating former BBC star Jimmy Savile. Harris has not been charged with any offence.

Until now, Harris' name has not been published by mainstream media organisations, who have referred to him as a well-known Australian entertainer from Berkshire. That is despite some bloggers and social media users publicly naming Harris.

Fairfax Media has not been able to independently confirm the arrested man's identity.

The Sun, the sister paper to the now defunct and discredited News of the World, reported that Harris was arrested on March 28, two days before his 83rd birthday, over alleged offences not linked to TV presenter Savile. Police have revealed that Savile, who died in 2011, abused hundreds of children and women over a 54-year period.

Police first raided Harris' Berkshire home on November 24 last year, but he was not at home, The Sun said. He was interviewed under caution on November 29 after attending a South London police premises by appointment.

After The Sun published the story, the news was reported by Sky News Australia.

Harris has performed several gigs and appeared on television since emerging as a suspect, The Sun reported. It is understood Harris vehemently denies any wrongdoing.

Scotland Yard has not publicly named the Australian entertainer.

At the time of the arrest on March 28, a Scotland Yard spokesman said a pensioner from Berkshire, west of London, was one of 11 people arrested so far under Operation Yewtree, which is investigating people linked to Savile.

The spokesman said there were three categories of people subject to the investigation: Savile himself, people close to the presenter and "others".

The then 82-year-old was in the last category which "is generally people who were in the public spotlight at around that time", the spokesman said.

Police stressed that last month's arrest was not connected to the specific allegations made against Savile.

The arrested man was bailed to a date in May, pending further inquiries.

Harris, a veteran artist, musician and entertainer, has been a regular fixture on television screens since he signed with the BBC in 1953. His musical hits include Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, in which he played a wobble board instrument, Jake The Peg and Two Little Boys.

Generations of Britons grew up watching Harris' work, which includes Rolf's Cartoon Club, Rolf on Art, and Animal Hospital.

In 2005, he was commissioned by the BBC to paint a portrait of the Queen to celebrate her 80th birthday. The accompanying programme, The Queen by Rolf, was watched by an audience of nearly 7 million.

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Savile was a hugely popular but eccentric figure, famed for his shock of white hair, tracksuits and chunky gold jewellery, but since his death his reputation has been destroyed by revelations that he abused hundreds of children and women.

He preyed on 450 victims, aged between eight and 47, during his career. Almost a fifth of his victims were boys.

British police said earlier this year in a report into his activities that Savile "groomed the nation" over six decades, hiding behind his fame to assault girls, boys and adult women on BBC premises and in schools and hospitals.

The public broadcaster made Savile one of its biggest stars in the 1970s and 1980s as presenter of BBC TV's Top of the Pops chart show and children's program Jim'll Fix It.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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