London: The prosecution was due to wrap up its case against Rolf Harris overnight, with a story which it claims shows him again taking advantage of his celebrity status to molest a young girl.
A pair of witnesses on video link from New Zealand were expected to testify over an encounter in Hamilton in 1991, where Harris was appearing at a British Paints promotion.
A 15-year-old girl who was passionate about art attended the promotion, and Harris offered to give her a hug, prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC, said in her opening statement two weeks ago. But when he stepped towards the girl he put his hand into her blouse and touched her breast, and also squeezed her bottom.
The court was also due to hear, via video link, from the woman’s mother, who said she confronted the entertainer after he rubbed against her at the same event.
The character witnesses in this case have shown Harris had a ”persistent pattern of sexual offending” over 30 years, Ms Wass said.
On Wednesday two Australians took the stand in Southwark Crown Court to testify about Harris’ behaviour in the make-up chair at Channel Seven, where he used to host a variety show in the 1980s.
The make-up artist said she had been hired for a day’s work at Seven, and worked wearing baggy denim shorts.
Soon after she started to do Harris’ makeup she felt his hand on her left leg, up under her shorts, over her bottom and up to her waist.
”He was really fast, it was slide hand up, slide hand down,” she said. ”I turned around and looked at the mirror. My first thought was ‘oh my God, I can’t believe he works with children’.”
She had to regularly touch up his makeup once he was out in the studio, and about two dozen times he did the same thing, she said.
She later complained to a female supervisor. ”I told her what had happened to me: ‘The dirty old man groped me all day and I was really pissed off’.
”I found out [afterwards] from makeup artists he was called ‘the octopus’,” the witness said. ”He was all hands.”
Defence counsel Sonia Woodley, QC, put it to the witness that the encounter ”simply didn’t happen”. The witness just laughed in response.
The court also heard from Tony Porter, a retired Australian actor who had worked with Harris on his variety show Rolf at about the same time.
He said he had seen Harris in a makeup chair when a makeup artist leaned over in front of him to do his face.
”Both arms shot up and he went to tickle her up … he went straight for her breasts,” Mr Porter said. ”[He] made like a lascivious noise with his mouth.”
Mr Porter said it was clear from the woman’s reaction that she did not welcome the approach.
Horseplay, innuendo and sexual suggestions were common between TV personalities and people in roles such as makeup, he said, but ”it was totally unknown for someone to reach out and grab somebody’s breasts … the first thing I said when I got home, I told my wife ‘you’ll never believe what I saw Rolf do tonight’.”
Ms Woodley asked Mr Porter if he had been upset by Harris, and he said once Harris had come up to him when he was telling jokes to the TV show audience and said out of the side of his mouth ”mate, I’ll do the funny stuff, OK” and walked away – but he took it as a backhanded compliment.
Mr Porter and the makeup artist were character witnesses for the prosecution case. Their stories did not relate to specific charges against the entertainer.
Harris, 84, has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault against four complainants.
The trial before Justice Nigel Sweeney continues.
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