News World No proof Harris ‘groped’ girls

No proof Harris ‘groped’ girls

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The British detective in charge of the case against Rolf Harris has admitted there’s no independent evidence the entertainer was at two key events where girls allege they were groped 40 years ago.

Detective Sergeant Gary Pankhurst was the last prosecution witness to give evidence at Harris’s child sex trial in London.

The senior investigating officer on Friday told the court “a lot of effort” went into trying to determine if Harris was at a community centre near Portsmouth in the late 1960s.

That’s where one of four main complainants in the case alleges she was “aggressively and forcefully” groped between her legs when aged seven or eight years old.

The jury on Friday was told police had searched Portsmouth newspapers published between 1968 and 1970 but “no trace was found of the event at the Leigh Park Community Centre described by (the alleged victim)”.

A search of council records and letter drops appealing for witnesses uncovered no definitive proof either.

Two locals did, however, give evidence last week that they recalled Harris being in the general area around that time.

Det Sgt Pankhurst was also quizzed about another complainant’s claim that she was “firmly” groped in the mid-1970s when, aged 13 or 14, she was working as a waitress in a marquee in a Cambridge park.

The witness, now in her early 50s, believes the incident occurred during an It’s a Knockout celebrity event.

But defence lawyer Sonia Woodley QC on Friday insisted: “There is no independent evidence of any kind to put Mr Harris in Cambridge in the year of 1975.”

During cross-examination Det Sgt Pankhurst agreed the BBC had provided footage of It’s a Knockout filmed in Cambridge in 1975 and there was no vision of Harris.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC, however, told the court there had been plans for a fundraiser to help the Cambridge team travel to the finals and a report from the time suggested organisers were hoping a “big name celebrity” would attend.

The event was to take place at the same park where the alleged victim recalls being assaulted.

Ms Wass further noted that 40 years ago the internet didn’t exist and relevant information could not simply be found on Google like today.

Earlier on Friday, the jury was shown film footage of Harris’s principal accuser – a childhood friend of his daughter Bindi – shot at the time she claims the entertainer started abusing her aged 13.

The 1978 footage was seized from the Harris family home west of London in November 2012 just days before the artist and singer was first questioned by detectives from Operation Yewtree.

The main complainant says Harris first assaulted her when she joined the family on a holiday to Canada, Hawaii and Australia in 1978.

In the film the 13-year-old is playing with others on inflated tubes on a river.

It also shows Bindi’s friend swimming in a pool while wearing a bikini and standing outside a house in Australia.

Giving evidence a fortnight ago the complainant said, when she was 28, Harris told her the flesh-coloured bikini she’d worn as a young teenager “turned him on”.

Harris admits having a 10-year “affair” with his daughter’s friend but says sexual relations only began after she turned 16.

She insists the entertainer groomed her “like a pet”.

Ms Wass wrapped up on Friday afternoon by telling Justice Nigel Sweeney: “My Lord that is the case for the prosecution.”

The defence opens its case on Tuesday with Harris moving from the glass-walled dock to the witness stand.

It’s believed the 84-year-old will give evidence for two or three days.

Harris is charged with indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986. He denies all 12 counts.

The trial continues.