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Harris 'admired teenager's body'

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris has admitted that he admired a 13-year-old friend of his daughter sexually while on holiday.

The 84-year-old conceded that when he complimented the teenager on her bikini during the holiday in the 1970s, he was actually referring to her body.

Harris, who was cross-examined by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC during his second day in the witness box at his indecent assault trial, also admitted having a "darker side" alongside his public persona.

The star is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault on four alleged victims between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

Seven relate to the friend of his daughter, who claims he abused her from the age of 13.

Harris, who wore a dark suit and red tie and was supported in the public gallery by wife Alwen and other family members, sat in the witness box as he admitted that he might have complimented the girl's bikini on holiday when she was 13.

Ms Wass put to him that bringing attention to her bikini was actually a comment on her body, and suggested he was admiring her sexually.

She asked: "Do you accept that when a man tells a woman or a girl that they look lovely in a bikini, they are not actually admiring the clothing, but they are admiring the person's body?"

Harris replied: "Possibly."

Ms Wass asked: "What you were saying to (the alleged victim) is 'You have got a great body'."

Harris replied: "I suppose so."

The QC added: "When she was 13?"

Harris answered: "Yes."

Ms Wass said: "And you made it plain to (the alleged victim) on that holiday that you did admire her, admire her body?"

Harris answered: "On one occasion, possibly."

The prosecutor added: "And you admired her sexually, that's what that is."

Harris answered: "It did not compute to that in my mind... in hindsight, I suppose it is."

Ms Wass went on: "It seems from where we are going from your answers to the questions that you admired (the alleged victim's) body sexually during that holiday."

Harris replied: "It's possible, yes."

The prosecutor added: "And, of course, once we work out that you did see (the alleged victim) in a sexual light during that holiday, everything that (she) says becomes realistic, doesn't it?"

Harris replied: "Not as far as I'm concerned, because it never happened."

Referring to his behaviour on the trip, when the girl has claimed he indecently assaulted her several times, Ms Wass suggested Harris "played with her like she was a toy".

He said: "I would never do that."

Earlier, Harris said he knew that touching a 13-year-old was a criminal offence, but denied anything had happened.

As she began cross-examining the veteran star - who described his guilt yesterday at "betraying everyone" with the affair - Ms Wass described him as a "polished performer", saying: "You're pretty good Mr Harris aren't you at disguising that dark side of your character", to which he replied: "Yes".

The prosecutor said: "This case is to decide whether underneath your friendly and loveable exterior there's a darker side lurking.

"The issue we really have to fathom from this court is how dark that dark side really is."

She said the sexual encounters with his daughter's friend were not consensual: "This was child abuse, grooming, and you effectively psychologically dominated that girl into womanhood."

Harris, who yesterday revealed a second affair with a woman he and wife Alwen had allowed to live rent-free in an annexe at their home, has admitted having a relationship with his daughter's friend, but insists it started when she was 18.

Today he told the court it was a "flirtatious thing" made up of isolated sexual encounters, and stemmed from "a feeling of love and friendship".

Asking him to explain what he meant in a letter of apology he later wrote to the woman's father after she had told her family of the alleged abuse, Ms Wass accused Harris of thinking he was "untouchable".

Speaking in a low voice, Harris told jurors: "That's not what I intended at all."

Ms Wass suggested to the defendant that after the holiday, the alleged victim had been "pretty much trained" by the entertainer.

"I'm going to suggest that you have been pretty thorough in grooming her," the QC said.

"No, it didn't happen," Harris replied.

The defendant, who confirmed he had taken part in an NSPCC campaign to raise awareness about child abuse, said the woman's mother's evidence that she recalled Harris going up to her daughter's bedroom was "probably supporting her daughter's story".

Asked if he was suggesting the mother was lying, he replied: "I imagine so."

Of a claim that he indecently assaulted the girl while his daughter was asleep in the same room, Harris said: "She said all sorts of things which if it wasn't so serious would have been laughable."

He said the girl's allegation that he had looked over at his daughter while performing oral sex on her was "physically not possible".

Moving on to the other charges against him relating to other witnesses, Ms Wass added: "There are a series of events in this case where you have taken advantage of the fact that you are a well loved children's entertainer."

But the artist told the court: "They are all making it up."

During heated questioning by Ms Wass on the nature of his relationship, she put it to him that it was not the "meaningful" one he claimed it to be.

"I don't suppose it was," he admitted.

Asked if it was more like "no-frills sex", Harris agreed: "It was."

Questioned about the statement he gave to police after his arrest, in which he said he and the woman only had two sexual encounters, the entertainer said he lied as he was embarrassed at talking about what he perceived as his own sexual inadequacy in front of two "attractive young ladies" present at his solicitor's legal chambers.

He added: "I assumed that when they said 'sexual intercourse' they meant full penetrative sex."

Earlier Harris had described how he kept "failing" to have full sex with the woman.

Asked about how their affair ended, Harris agreed when Ms Wass suggested it "fizzled out" with "no weeping or recrimination".

Harris added: "Yes, she was aware that it wasn't working in any way, shape or form. Anything that we attempted to do was failing sexually, yes.

"I just apologised for not being able to do anything effectively. It's highly embarrassing for a man not to be able to have penetrative sex."

Asked why the alleged victim developed alcoholism and appeared to have an emotional breakdown, Harris said he thought it was because she was jealous of the affair he later had with another woman.

Responding to this, Ms Wass said: "But this wasn't a relationship like that.

"We've established that. This was a relationship where you saw each other only eight times in 11 years."

Ms Wass asked Harris if he had paid legal fees for his daughter Bindi and wife Alwen, who were accompanied by solicitors when they attended police interviews.

"It may have been arranged through my accountant, I didn't know about it," he said.

The entertainer told the court that his alleged victim had told Bindi about their affair while he was away in Australia.

"When I came back she had smashed a couple of paintings that I had given her, she was furious."

Asking Harris if he had discussed the case with his daughter, Ms Wass asked if he had "put her up" to giving certain evidence, to which he replied: "No, no discussions at all."

The prosecutor said: "You have been coming to court everyday, walking slowly into court with Bindi on one arm and your wife on the other", and asked if they travelled home together.

When Harris said no, Ms Wass asked: "So it's just for the cameras is it? Coming in with them?"

"It's to show support," he said.

Harris was released from the witness box while friend and pantomime producer Paul Elliott gave evidence.

The case was adjourned to 10am tomorrow, when Harris will continue to be cross-examined.


From Belfast Telegraph