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Harris 'a delight to work with'

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris complimented his daughter's friend on her "lovely curves" but not in a "lurid way", a jury has heard.

The 84-year-old was "very tactile" but would "run away" when giggling teenage girls visited his daughter Bindi, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.

Former TV star Rosemarie Ford, who danced to Jake The Peg with Harris on the Generation Game, also told jurors that the performer had never behaved inappropriately.

He is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault on four women between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

Today Bindi's friend Joanne Charles told the jury of six men and six women when Harris gave her one of his bear hugs it was like her father embracing her, and that he would shy away from his daughter's friends.

"When we were all together, I think we were too loud and too giggly and Rolf used to run away from the noise and the giggling. I think he thought we were all a bit too giggly, silly," she told the court.

The witness said his embraces were paternal rather than sexual.

"It was lovely. It was affectionate," she said.

"Because I had known him for so long, it was just like having my father put his arms around me and cuddle me."

Ms Charles's father Don Charles ran a club in Malta where Harris would perform in the 1970s, the court heard.

When her family returned to the UK, she would go and stay with Bindi and her family.

Harris is accused of having molested another of his daughter's friends from the age of 13, but Ms Charles said he had not shown any interest in the girl, who she described as "bland".

"From my recollection, she was quiet and I hate to say it, because it sounds so awful, but she was a bit bland."

Asked how Harris's behaviour had been when she got older, she said: "It's been the same really. He has always been very cuddly, very warm, tactile.

"I think there were comments like 'goodness, aren't you a curvy girl? You've got such lovely curves'."

But she said she did not find them offensive: "No, I didn't because it wasn't in a lurid way, it was in a friendly, warm way."

Harris admits having had a consensual sexual affair with the alleged victim from the age of 18.

Ms Charles said when she heard the news: "I was saddened and shocked. It's a terribly sad thing, but as far as I saw it that was his private life and it had nothing to do with me."

Another witness, Anne Marie Eve, told the court that her parents became friends with the Harrises when they moved to Bray, and the artist was "a totally lovely human being".

The physiotherapist told the court that he was affectionate to her and her father.

"He would envelop you in a hug. He would envelop my father in a hug, which he found surprising as a physician.

"They were just two ends of a tactile spectrum."

Telling the jury that he had never tried to grope her, she added: "There was never anything hidden about it."

Ms Ford, who appeared alongside Bruce Forsyth on the Generation Game, said she had worked with Harris on the programme as well as other broadcasts Cat Crazy and Rolf's Amazing World Of Animals in the 1990s.

"Rolf was a total professional. He was a delight to work with and easy to be with," she told the jury.

She said he had "absolutely never" behaved inappropriately.

"I have obviously been in and around the business a long time and you learn to recognise, in the area I'm from, when people do have a inappropriate manner and I never saw that," the performer told the court.

Ms Ford, who the jury heard is married to actor Robert Lindsay, added: "There was never, ever any indication of anything sinister or inappropriate."

Choreographer Dougie Squires, who was made an OBE for services to the arts, then recalled the five decades he has spent working with Harris.

He had a group of dancers called Young Generation who performed each week on the Rolf Harris show, including girls aged around 16 to 28.

Mr Squires said the musician was "very popular with them as a father figure really".

Despite the dancers walking around in bras and g-strings backstage, Harris did not behave inappropriately, the court heard. Mr Squires said: "He was one of the gang."

The pair have also supported charities together for the past 25 years, the jury was told.

The court then heard from Tina Fletcher-Hill, a senior executive producer for the BBC, who gave evidence via videolink from the United States where she is on holiday.

She first met Harris in 1999 while working on Animal Hospital, and later collaborated with him on the series Rolf on Art.

Mrs Fletcher-Hill said: "Rolf is a hugger. Rolf is loving, he's kind, he's affectionate. I've never witnessed anybody pulling back or feeling uncomfortable with his tactile nature."

The TV boss told the court Harris would openly admire strangers, telling them "my God you're beautiful", but not in a sexual way.

"He will quite openly comment on the colour of someone's hair or the shape of their nose or on their characteristics or facial expressions.

"He is quite open and outspoken in terms of admiring form. I guess that is an artist thing."

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.


From Belfast Telegraph