Rolf Harris confesses affair with daughter's friend

NICK MILLER
Last updated 05:01 28/05/2014
Rolf Harris
Reuters
ACCUSED: Rolf Harris recalled his career for the court.

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Rolf Harris has painfully confessed to intimate details of his affair with a "flirtatious" friend of his daughter - and another with a lodger living at his family home.

But he has firmly denied sexually assaulting the friend of his daughter, saying their relationship began when she was at least 18, and each encounter was consensual.

The 84-year-old entertainer is charged with indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, but has never before spoken publicly about the allegations against him, or his affairs.

Harris began his time in the witness stand chuckling over career highlights, re-enacting for the jury the creation of the wobbleboard and singing the chorus of Jake the Peg.

But after an hour of fond recollection and wandering anecdotes, the mood turned serious as he sat in the witness box, dressed in a dark suit and purple tie, and talked about the first of the women who has claimed he assaulted when she was a young teenager.

The complainant, who originally lived close by in the UK, was a childhood friend of his daughter Bindi.

But after the girl turned 18 their relationship changed, Harris said, his voice lowering, sometimes to inaudibility.

Their first sexually-charged encounter, he said, took place one morning when she was staying at the Harris family home and he came in to her room with a cup of tea and put it on her bedside table.

"She grabbed my elbow and seemed to want me to sit on the bed," Harris said. "So I did. She slid over a little bit and then kicked the duvet off her feet to reveal her legs were bare, no pyjama pants.

"It seemed to me she was being very flirtatious. As you can imagine it was very flattering, for this young lady to suddenly be showing an interest in me.

"I touched the outside of her leg. I can remember my heart was thumping... I didn't know what to do, I got up and left the room."

The woman's behaviour had seemed like an "invitation", he said. He was in his 50s at the time.

"I find it very hard to discuss this, it's very embarrassing. I was a married man and she was a much younger girl, I shouldn't have been doing it."

But the woman returned to his house on later occasions and seemed "flirtatious" and "coquettish", he said. He noticed her "sexual chemistry".

The next time he brought her a cup of tea "it was an excuse by that time" and their foreplay became sexual.

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He recalled other sexual encounters, saying the woman seemed a willing participant, "welcoming the whole business and enjoying it".

She once performed oral sex on him when they went for a walk in the outskirts of Bray near his home. Another time they had sex in a car.

Once they were both visiting Bindi's home in Devon and he undressed and went to her room, to find her sitting on the bed naked. Another time she invited him to her home, then into the bedroom.

After around a decade their relationship "ground to a halt", he said. "There was nothing that kept it together."

In the mid 1990s, he said, he and his wife Alwen invited a "down on her luck" woman aged in her mid-30s to stay in Bindi's former room. Their relationship "gradually became physical, sexual intimacy" Harris said - which his wife Alwen discovered.

"She was devastated by it and rightly so," he said.

He remembers his last encounter with the complainant, who called and told him to come and meet her at her home.

There she first accused him of abusing her as a teenager, Harris said.

"She kept going over it and over it," he said. "I told her it didn't happen."

She then asked for £25,000 for her boyfriend's animal refuge project, and when he refused she said "well you had better keep your eye on the weekend newspapers."

Two weeks ago the complainant said she was 13 in 1978 when she came on a holiday with the Harris family to Vancouver, Hawaii and Australia.

The complainant said Harris first assaulted her in Hawaii, when she stepped out of a shower in a hotel room.

"No, it didn't happen," Harris said overnight (NZT).

He also denied assaulting her later in the trip at Harris' parents' home in Bassendean, Western Australia.

The complainant had said Harris' gave "creepy" hugs.

"I am a very touchy-feely sort of person and normally hug anyone that I get along with," Harris said.

Defence counsel Sonia Woodley QC asked if he hugged in "a sexual way".

"No," he replied.

The complainant said Harris assaulted her back in the UK before her 16th birthday at her home, and at Harris' family home in Bray.

But Harris said it was unlikely she visited at that time, because they had just moved house and were doing extensive renovation.

And he denied going up to the complainant's bedroom at her home, or ever assaulting her at his. "Absolutely not, that's ludicrous," he said.

Earlier, Harris told the court of his climb to fame, from a poor family in Bassendean, to a struggling artist in London, to fame and success in music and on TV - detailing the precise position on the charts of each of his big hits and talking about his constant travelling around the world.

He even told the jury the story of his first audition for the BBC, where he told an interviewer a children's story about 'the octopus and the shark'.

Several times he apologised for going off topic - "I'm waxing a little bit lyrical on these answers I'm afraid," he said - but other times he asked permission to finish particular anecdotes.

He was particularly keen to flesh out the creation of the wobble-board, shaking a hot piece of board and becoming fascinating with the "bloop bloop bloop" noise it made, he said.

He also talked about his disdain for alcohol - "it never lives up to how good it looks", he said.

Harris's evidence is expected to be followed by grueling cross-examination by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC.

The trial before Justice Sweeney continues.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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