Rolf Harris guilty: The hypocrite entertainer who warned children about paedophiles
Rolf Harris made a ground-breaking television film warning children about the tell-tale tactics of paedophiles some 15 years after he had started his string of attacks.
The performer had already abused at least three children, aged about seven, 13 and 16 before he claimed to have been inspired to make the 20-minute programme by a school performance he had seen in Canada in 1982, according to his collaborator on the project.
"It is a problem which has reached horrendous proportions all over the world," said Harris in an interview the year after it was made. "It's been pushed under the carpet for too long and has to be brought out into the open in a major way."
The video – for education programmes in schools – used children from a stage school in painting a series of scenarios in which children could be exploited. It features a song, penned by an American children’s songwriter, sung by Harris with the refrain: “My body’s nobody’s body but mine, you run your own body, let me run mine”.
The film, made with advice of the NSPCC and aimed at children aged five to eight, features Harris talking with children about ‘yes’ and ‘no’ feelings and ends him singing with a group of children with adults and two police officers in the background.
The film addresses attempted grooming by strangers as well as people that they know very well. “Everybody, that’s kids and grown-ups, they have a right to their own body don’t they?” he says in the programme. “Some people don’t act right with kids and they need help. You can’t protect them from trouble that they themselves have caused.”
The 1985 programme was made some seven years after he first abused a 13-year-old who he treated as a prostitute for his own sexual gratification for the next 15 years, the court heard.
The first case of abuse for which he was charged dated back to around 1969 when he molested a girl who was of a similar age to the children in the programme.
The film was made with members of the Barbara Speake stage school and followed a similar one on water safety. One of the children who took part in the video said that the entertainer had beeped at older girls at the school and had tried to chat them up. “It was a stage school from four to 16 so we knew what the older girls were saying,” said the pupil. “I remembered those conversations so it wasn’t a big shock [when he was arrested].
“I remember saying to a friend that I would put him in the same category as Savile. It was that same feeling when you were around. He was a bit lechy.”
The year after he made the film, he molested a 14-year-old Australian girl in a London pub as she toured Britain with a theatre group. The woman, Tonya Lee who has waived her right to anonymity has told of how the incident led to later alcoholic abuse, an eating disorder and attempted suicide.
The NSPCC distanced itself from the making of the film. “They apparently came to use to get some guidance on what they should get the children to,” said a spokesman. “We gave a bit of advice. It’s not our film and we never used it.”
Director Jessica Skippon said that there had been no complaints during the making of the film. “He said that he’d had a happy childhood and every child deserved the same,” she said in an email.
Belfast Telegraph Digital