Rolf Harris faces jail as jury finds him guilty of 12 indecent assaults

VETERAN entertainer Rolf Harris saw his decades in the spotlight end in disgrace today as he was found guilty of indecent assault.

Rolf Harris leaves Southwark Crown Court after being found guilty of 12 sex charges involving four women.

The 84-year-old, once a much-loved artist and musician, was convicted at Southwark Crown Court of 12 sex charges involving four women.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

His army of supporters, including suited security guards and representatives from PR giant Bell Pottinger who attended every day of the trial, could do nothing to change the verdict of the jury of six men and six women.

Rolf Harris leaves Southwark Crown Court after being found guilty of 12 sex charges involving four women.

Once seen by a UK audience as a national treasure, Harris had enjoyed years of success, netting him a multi-million pound fortune and the chance to paint the Queen.

But the downfall of an entertainer who was part of millions of British childhoods came today, as Harris became the biggest scalp claimed by detectives from high profile sex crime investigation Operation Yewtree.

Dozens more alleged victims have come forward during the trial, including several in Australia, and Scotland Yard has been in touch with their counterparts in the Australian police, but it is not yet clear whether they are pursuing any investigation in Harris’s home country.

The NSPCC said it has received 28 calls relating to Harris to date, involving 13 people who claim they fell prey to the performer.

Rolf Harris arriving at Southwark Crown Court, London

Harris remained impassive as the forewoman delivered the unanimous verdicts.

His daughter Bindi held hands with a fellow supporter, and wife Alwen and niece Jenny also watched from the public gallery as his fate was sealed.

The performer was released on bail until Friday when he will be sentenced.

Justice Sweeney warned the 84-year-old that given the conviction on all 12 counts it was “inevitable” that a custodial sentence would be possible.

“He must understand that”, he said, to which Harris’s barrister Sonia Woodley replied: “He does appreciate that”.

The judge told the jury: “During the case you will have had to grapple with a side of life which I suspect you would prefer not to have had to grapple with.

“You have done so in the face of daily attention of large numbers of members of the media representing the public and observation of how you have conducted yourselves.”

He excused them from jury service for 10 years.

Outside the courtroom, a tearful Bindi was seen walking the corridor with Alwen and Jenny, near where her father had been taken into a side room with his legal team.

It can now be revealed that several more women came forward to claim that Rolf Harris had groped them but their evidence was not allowed to be used as part of the prosecution.

Details of alleged victims who said they had been targeted were presented to Mr Justice Sweeney but ruled inadmissible as part of the case.

An application was made after the trial had started for the account of a celebrity who claimed Harris had groped her during a live television broadcast in 1996 to be included as part of the prosecution, but this was rejected.

Others presented before the trial started included a woman who claimed she met Harris in 1977 aged 14 when he stayed at a motel near Sydney.

It is claimed he touched her bottom and waist, before pushing her up against a door and saying: “Rolfie deserves a cuddle”. He then allegedly followed her to the lift and touched her breasts, trying to stop her from leaving.

On another occasion in 2005, it is claimed that Harris grabbed a woman who was working at a Berkshire pub where a party was being held for broadcaster Michael Parkinson and started to kiss her neck. She claimed Harris did this in front of his wife Alwen.

A fourth woman, referred to as Miss G, said she met the defendant when he was doing an interview with the BBC during her art class at Shankill Leisure Centre in Belfast in 1991.

She claimed that he forced his tongue into her mouth, and described him as “opportunistic and predatory”.

Another woman claimed that in 1996 when she was 13 or 14 she met the defendant while he was in a tent at a fete in Bray, and he said he liked her jumper and wanted to see what was underneath it.

Three years later in 1999, it was claimed that Harris met a 24-year-old woman, who had mental health problems, while she was on holiday with friends.

It is alleged that he put his hand in her trousers and touched her breasts when he came to the villa where she was staying, and that there was another sexual encounter after Harris got into her bed when she was having a nap.

Prosecutors also asked to use the testimony of a woman who said she met the defendant at an art competition in Kensington Olympia in 2001 when she was 20, and said Harris touched her bottom when they were posing for a photo.

During the trial Australian media also reported claims by a radio host and a former newsreader that they had received unwanted attention from Harris.

Radio presenter Jane Marwick alleged that the performer had grabbed her breast after an interview in 2001, while former ABC TV newsreader Verity James told radio station 6PR that she and a female producer were also groped in 2000.

Ms James claimed that Harris pushed her up against a wall and touched her breast and bottom, and that he had done the same to a producer, but that they “laughed it off”.

Ms Marwick said Harris had been one of her “childhood idols” and that she “couldn’t believe this was happening”, while her co-host Gary Shannon claimed the performer “had his tongue out and was panting heavily”.

Both women decided to speak out after they heard the indecent assault allegations against the entertainer.

When news of Harris’s arrest broke, a collective gasp swept across the nation.

This was not just a famous face, this was one of the best-loved celebrities of past and present - a true family favourite.

Born in 1930, Harris grew up in Perth suburb Bassendean and went on to carve himself a 60-year career that saw him achieve success as an artist, musician and TV personality, with a list of honours to match.

As a teenager and young adult, he became a champion swimmer, and in 1946 was the Australian Junior 110 yards Backstroke Champion.

Struck down by a mysterious illness that left him paralysed for several weeks, Harris said it was this that prompted him to take the leap and travel to England to pursue a career in art.

“I thought that if I were to continue teaching I would be a weekend painter, which is like a weekend driver, you never get any better than you were the previous weekend,” he told jurors at his trial.

That was in 1952, and after a few failed attempts at art school, Harris managed to get himself a slot on a BBC show, despite his first audition being a self-confessed “disaster”.

Also a keen musician, he started by entertaining at the Down Under club, a haven for ex-pat Australians and New Zealanders, playing his piano accordion.

His song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, became a hit in Australia, the UK and the United States in the 1960s.

Over the following years, Harris’s musical career was to grow and grow, and he became well-known for his use of instruments, from the didgeridoo to his famous “wobble-board”.

The entertainer released comedic song Jake the Peg in the 1960s, but his biggest hit was in 1969 with Two Little Boys, originally written in 1902.

The hit became the Christmas Number One in the UK and remained at the top of the charts for six weeks, selling more than a million copies.

Harris went on to perform his own versions of several hit songs, including Led Zeppelin’s The Money or the Gun.

He performed at Glastonbury for the first time in 1993, going on to appear a number of times, including a spot on its world-famous Pyramid Stage in 2010.

Despite his musical success, Harris’s art career was not forgotten. His work was exhibited in many places, and in 2005 he had the rare privilege of painting a portrait of the Queen to mark her 80th birthday.

One of the best-known names in showbiz, the boy from Bassendean’s celebrity extended beyond art and music, as he became a TV personality and all-round household name.

His catchphrases were known worldwide, from “Can you tell what it is yet?” accompanying his painting stints, and his emotional references to “the poor little blighter” as he hosted TV programme Animal Hospital, based at a British veterinary practice.

Harris appeared on This is Your Life on two occasions, and in 1989 featured in a child abuse prevention video called Kids Can Say No.

In November 2011 he appeared in an episode of Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, where he described what he called the darkest periods of his life, revealing that he had suffered deeply from depression and describing his regret over missing key events in daughter Bindi’s life.

It was this less jovial side of Rolf Harris that his daughter alluded to when she described him during her evidence.

“Dad didn’t really take much notice of me or anybody at home,” she told jurors.

“I think when he is out in the world he wants to give everyone his time and everyone is new and he can tell new jokes and new everything. But when he’s at home he is very much switched off, very quiet, quite often working, making something.”

Despite home relationships appearing to be somewhat strained, to the rest of the world Harris has always been a fond favourite.

With an MBE, OBE and CBE under his belt, as well as a fellowship from Bafta, he was loved nationwide.

And in a nod to his standing as a British favourite, the veteran entertainer starred in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in June 2012.

But just months later, the career he spent years building was thrown into disarray as he became one of the names linked to the now well-known Operation Yewtree.

He denied anything unlawful, with friends and family jumping to the entertainer’s defence, insisting there was nothing sinister about the “cuddly” star’s behaviour around women.

But the 84-year-old was forced to admit that he had a “darker side” as he confessed to not one, but two affairs - one with one of his daughter’s friends - and even admitted to finding the girl attractive when she was just 13.

With the details of his private life laid bare for the world to see, it is clear that no matter what the outcome of his trial was, the nation’s view of Rolf Harris would never have been quite the same again.