Victims of historic sex abuse deserve to have a voice, the jury in Rolf Harris’ indecent assault trial has been told, just days out from a key witness telling her story for the first time.
Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC opened the crown’s case on Friday by declaring Harris was a “Jekyll and Hyde character” who used his celebrity status to brazenly assault underage girls often in public.
“Concealed behind this charming and amicable children’s entertainer lay a man who exploited the very children who were drawn to him,” Ms Wass said.
On Monday she’ll call her first witness at Southwark Crown Court.
Harris is accused of indecently assaulting four girls, one as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986 in the UK. He denies the charges.
Ms Wass told the jury the passage of time didn’t diminish Harris’ crimes and, although the assaults were historic, their impact was ongoing.
“Victims deserve to have a voice,” the prosecutor said on Friday.
“Just because a case is historic doesn’t mean you should dismiss it.”
One of the four main complainants was a close friend of Harris’ daughter, Bindi, who joined the family on an overseas holiday in 1978.
The entertainer allegedly abused the then 13-year-old for the first time in Hawaii after she’d taken a shower at their hotel.
The attacks continued in Australia where Harris would spit on his fingers before indecently assaulting her.
Back in London, the victim started drinking at the age of 14 to cope, Ms Wass said.
When she knew Harris was coming to visit she’d drink “a shed load of gin”.
Often the entertainer would assault her in her bedroom “then return downstairs like nothing had happened”.
Harris also performed oral sex on the teenager.
The court heard the victim told family, friends and medical professionals about the abuse in the 1990s so any suggestion she was jumping on the Jimmy Savile “bandwagon” was unfounded.
Harris himself wrote a letter to the victim’s father in 1997 confessing he’d had an affair but insisting it was consensual and started after Bindi’s friend was an adult.
“I know what I did was wrong but we are, all of us, fallible and oh how I deluded myself,” Harris wrote.
“Please forgive me.”
Ms Wass said the letter was akin to former US president Bill Clinton admitting to smoking cannabis but insisting he hadn’t inhaled.
She said Harris had effectively “nailed his colours to the mast” because the defendant couldn’t now say Bindi’s friend had invented the entire story.
The prosecutor then outlined in graphic detail how Harris had indecently assaulted the other complainants, one of whom was aged seven or eight, and two of whom were 14 at the time.
The court heard a further six women would give evidence that Harris harassed them too.
The youngest was 11 or 12 but the entertainer can’t be charged over the incidents as they occurred outside the UK in Australia, New Zealand and Malta.
Ms Wass asked the jury: “Would these girls, unknown to each other, make it up? Or is the reality they are telling the truth and they are all describing the dark side of Mr Harris, the Mr Hyde character that lurks within?”
The 84-year-old watched Friday’s proceedings from a glass-walled dock inside the court.
He listened with the aid of a hearing loop and occasionally sipped water from a plastic cup.
At the end of the day Harris left court with his wife, Alwen, and daughter.
The family forced smiles as they were chaperoned past the waiting media by private security guards.
The trial, expected to last until the end of June, continues.