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Harris a Jeckyll and Hyde, trial told

By Margaret Davis and Ellen Branagh

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris was a "Jekyll and Hyde" character whose fame allowed him to carry out a string of alleged indecent assaults on under-age girls, a court has heard.

The 84-year-old was even known at an Australian TV channel as "the octopus" because of the way he put his hands all over women, London's Southwark Crown Court was told yesterday.

Opening the case against the star, who denies 12 counts of indecent assault between 1968 and 1986, prosecutor Sasha Wass QC said Harris's alleged victims were "overawed" by him, saying: "Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable."

Addressing a packed courtroom, Ms Wass said Harris was "an immensely talented man" but his fame and reputation meant he was able to carry out "brazen" sexual assaults, often when other people were present or nearby.

Ms Wass said: "The prosecution does not, for a minute, suggest that there is not a good, talented and kind side to Mr Harris.

But, concealed behind this charming and amicable children's entertainer lay a man who exploited the very children who were drawn to him.

"There is a Jekyll and Hyde nature to Rolf Harris and this dark side of Rolf Harris was obviously not apparent to all of the other people he met during the course of his work, and it was not apparent to those who may want to testify to his good character." The prosecutor said it was "a side of him which is sexually attracted to children and under-age girls" and "a side which gave him the confidence to molest girls knowing that they could not object and, even if they did, nobody would believe them". She added: "You will hear from a make-up artist from Channel 7 in Australia that Rolf Harris's reputation was such that he was known as the octopus, because of the way that he would put his hands all over women."

Harris, sitting in the dock wearing a grey suit, white shirt and multi-coloured tie, listened intently to the proceedings through a hearing loop as the prosecution case was outlined.

His wife Alwen and other members of his family sat in the public gallery alongside dozens of UK and international journalists.

One woman, who it is claimed was groomed like "a young puppy who had been trained to obey" as a teenager is subject of seven of the counts Harris is facing.

The trial continues.

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