News World Harris decision ‘very close’

Harris decision ‘very close’

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The jury members in Rolf Harris’s child sex abuse trial have been told it’s getting “very close” to the time when they will be asked to consider their verdict.

The defence closed its case on Thursday with British broadcaster Sue Cook telling the court people shouldn’t judge Harris too harshly for not remembering he’d participated in a celebrity sporting event in Cambridge in the late 1970s.

Justice Nigel Sweeney subsequently told the jury that “barring something completely unforeseen” the evidence in the case was completed.

“It follows we are moving towards you making your decisions in this case,” the judge said.

“It’s getting very close to you retiring to reach your decisions.”

Harris is charged with indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986. The 84-year-old denies all 12 counts.

Ms Cook, a former Crimewatch presenter, earlier backed Harris’s claim that it was “a lapse of memory”, and not a deliberate lie, when he said he’d never been to Cambridge until three or four years ago.

Harris is accused of groping a teenage girl on the buttocks in the university city in the mid-1970s.

After denying he’d been there at the time, footage emerged of the Australian participating in Star Games at Jesus Green in Cambridge in 1978.

“I was in Cambridge but I didn’t know it was Cambridge,” Harris said by way of explanation.

“We all went on a bus to get there. We were deposited on the green.”

Ms Cook on Monday saw a news report of Harris’s evidence and told her husband it “wasn’t fair” because she couldn’t remember where the show was filmed either.

She tweeted: “I was one of the participants in that Star Games show in 1978. I must say I have no memory of where it took place.”

In court on Thursday, Ms Cook admitted she hadn’t actually appeared in the same episode as Harris but rather a number of the shows filmed elsewhere in 1979.

But she backed Harris’s claim that participants were taken to a hotel outside the relevant city or town and then bussed to a recreation ground.

The 65-year-old said she couldn’t remember exact locations.

“Where it was, was irrelevant,” Ms Cook said.

“The city or town itself was immaterial.”

However, under cross-examination by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC, Ms Cook agreed that at the time “you’d know roughly the direction you were going in” and where you ended up.

The broadcaster agreed she wouldn’t “swear blind” in court – as Harris did – that she’d hadn’t been somewhere. Rather, she’d likely say she had no memory of it.

Australian entertainer Kerrie Robson also gave evidence on Thursday.

She toured Malaysia and the Sinai with Harris in 1983 where they performed for the troops.

Ms Robson, who was 22 at the time, told the jury via videolink she “never ever” felt uncomfortable in his presence.

“He was almost like a father figure to me, looking after me on the tour,” she said.

Harris would make sure she’d eaten and had enough rest. He hugged her and everyone else but she never felt uneasy.

The pair went swimming together in the Red Sea, the court was told.

Harris wore brown pyjamas because he got sunburnt easily and, again, Ms Robson said, she never felt uncomfortable.

Harris’s former Australian tour manager Ken Jeacle appeared via videolink too.

He said fans would often “rush up” to the performer and put their arms around him.

“Quite often they would be tactile with him,” Mr Jeacle told the court.

The tour manager would have to “extract” the star from those situations to avoid fans getting too close.

Mr Jeacle said he “absolutely never, categorically never” saw Harris behave inappropriately towards girls or young women.

The entertainer was a family man who was always talking about his wife, Alwen, and daughter Bindi, he said.

Under cross-examination Mr Jeacle was adamant the fact Harris had two extra-marital affairs was none of his business.

“Not only can I not speak about it, I will not speak of that, because it’s none of my concern what Rolf Harris’s private life was,” he said.

Ms Wass will make her final speech to the jury early next week followed by defence lawyer Sonia Woodley QC.

Justice Sweeney will then sum up the case before the jury retires to consider its verdict.