Rolf Harris brother 'leaned' on witness

NICK MILLER
Last updated 06:23 05/06/2014
ROLF HARRIS
Reuters

ACCUSED: Rolf Harris denies 12 charges of indecent assault against four girls.

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Rolf Harris' brother has admitted "leaning" on one of the potential witnesses in his brother's sexual assault trial - but denied pressuring her to change her story.

He said it was "just not possible" that his brother would have behaved inappropriately towards women.

Rolf Harris, 84, has pleaded not guilty in a London court to 12 charges of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986.

Bruce Harris, 90, gave evidence from Australia about his brother and his career, which he has managed since the early 1980s.

Bruce Harris said he had never been concerned about the way his brother behaved towards children, young women or indeed anyone.

"I have never had any problems with that," he said. "I have never seen him doing anything unpleasant to anybody.

"I would have noticed because I appreciate that these things can happen and I would be watching for anything that would be inappropriate."

The first he had heard about allegations against his brother, he said, was when a complainant in the case, Tonya Lee, appeared on Channel Nine in Australia - in May last year, six months after Harris was first interviewed by police.

He said after he saw the interview he phoned Cathy Henkel, who led the youth theatre tour of the UK in 1986 during which Harris is alleged to have abused Lee.

"I must say I leaned on [Henkel] a couple of times and said 'surely you must have seen something'," Harris said.

Henkel had previously given evidence that Harris had "repeatedly said 'that couldn't have happened, could it'. I felt pressured to say it couldn't have happened."

But Bruce Harris said he was only trying to be sure whether she had seen any inappropriate behaviour by his brother.

"I didn't put pressure on her," he said. "I wasn't trying to get her to change her story."

He said it was a "most frightful and hurtful story" and he was considering whether they could take legal action against Channel Nine. He did not know until the end of the phone call that Henkel had already spoken to police.

Under cross-examination Bruce Harris said he was protective of his brother, but he was just trying to find out the truth.

An Australian make-up artist had earlier told the court that Bruce Harris was in a make-up room at Channel Seven in 1986 when Rolf Harris put his hands up her shorts and over her hip and bottom - and did it more than a dozen times more during the day's "shoot".

But Bruce Harris laughed and said it was a "ridiculous" claim.

"He would never do that and I wouldn't let him do that," he said. "It's just not possible ... I would have stopped him. I would have taken the elder brother's view of a younger brother misbehaving."

He said he would have been in a position to see if it had happened - and it hadn't.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, asked him if he was aware his brother was known among make-up artists as 'the octopus'.

"I think that's nonsense," Bruce Harris said. "I didn't go talking to make-up artists but I have never heard that one."

Rolf Harris had never shown any interest in the "financial side of life" but Bruce straightened out his financial affairs, helped him hone his act on tours through Australia, and set him up for a much more rewarding career, he said.

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The court also heard from Ken Jeacle, Rolf Harris's former tour manager. The pair started working together in the early 1980s.

He said his former client was "the highest-profile artist in the Australian variety scene" and his profile in his native country was "just indescribable", the BBC reported.

The trial at Southwark Crown Court before Justice Sweeney continues.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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