LONDON, Jul 1 – Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris, a household name in Britain since the 1960s, could face jail after his conviction Monday on 12 counts of indecently assaulting girls.
Australian-born Harris, 84 – a TV presenter, artist and performer of amusing songs like “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” – was found guilty of all the charges against him after a six-week trial.
He assaulted four girls and young women aged from seven to 19 between 1968 and 1986, including his daughter Bindi’s childhood best friend, a London court found.
Harris’s conviction represents a spectacular fall from grace for one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers.
Known for his catchphrase “Can you tell what it is yet?” he painted Queen Elizabeth II on her 80th birthday, hosted popular BBC television show “Animal Hospital” and performed at the Glastonbury music festival.
He was made a CBE in 2006 – one of the highest honours the queen can bestow – and performed at a concert marking the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.
In his native Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was “gutted and dismayed” by Harris’ conviction as the entertainer’s home town moved to purge his memory.
Harris is the second person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree, the high-profile police investigation set up in 2012 after allegations that the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender.
Harris was released on bail until Friday when he will be sentenced.
Judge Nigel Sweeney warned him that a jail term was a strong possibility, but his state of health would be assessed first.
– ‘Sickened’ by his own behaviour –
During the trial, prosecutors said Harris was a “Jekyll and Hyde” character who used his fame to abuse under-age girls with impunity.
When he took the witness stand, Harris turned on the charm which had enchanted millions of viewers, singing part of his hit “Jake the Peg” and describing how he invented the “wobble board” – a musical instrument made of a sheet of hardboard.
But the mood in court changed when he was confronted with the allegations against him, including seven counts relating to his daughter’s friend.
She said Harris assaulted her over several years, the first time when she was 13 and emerging from a shower on a trip to Hawaii.
Harris said he was “sickened” by his own behaviour but insisted he only began a physical relationship with the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, when she was an adult.
The star, who listened to proceedings through a hearing loop, also admitted he was good at disguising his “dark side”, but said he was simply a “touchy-feely” person.