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Rolf Harris denies 'darker side' included abusing girls

The Age logo The Age 28/05/2014 Nick Miller
Cross-examination: Rolf Harris arrives at court with his daughter Bindi on Wednesday. Cross-examination: Rolf Harris arrives at court with his daughter Bindi on Wednesday. Cross-examination: Rolf Harris arrives at court with his daughter Bindi on Wednesday. Cross-examination: Rolf Harris arrives at court with his daughter Bindi on Wednesday.

Rolf Harris has agreed his private life was very different to his fun, public exterior.

And he admitted admiring the body of a 13-year-old girl and making a sexually suggestive comment to her.

But he has denied that his dark side included abusing under-age girls, saying he deeply regretted the betrayal of trust in his adult, consensual affairs.

He said his main accuser had “said all sorts of things which if it wasn’t so serious would have been laughable”.

The 84 year-old entertainer faces 12 charges of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986. Harris has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Overnight he began his cross-examination by prosecutor Sasha Wass, QC.

Ms Wass said Harris had, the previous day, “delighted us with a demonstration of your many talents … you told us about your glittering career and honours bestowed by the Queen”.

“The prosecution is not suggesting you are anything other than a brilliant and polished performer,” she said. “But this case is not a talent show, is it?

“Underneath your fun and loveable exterior there’s a darker side lurking … even on your own account your private life was very different.”

Harris replied: “I suppose so.”

Ms Wass said Harris had confessed to an affair with a friend of his daughter more than 30 years younger than him who was herself like a daughter to him.

She said he “tried very hard to keep it a secret”.

“Of course,” Harris said.

Harris said the relationship “stemmed from a feeling of love” but he hadn’t been in love with her and he wouldn’t call it a love affair – there was “a natural feeling of warmth and affection” and flirtation had developed into a sexual relationship after she turned 18.

But Ms Wass said he had been abusing her, and grooming her into compliance since she was 13.

Harris admitted telling the complainant when she was 13 on holiday with the Harris family that she looked good in a bikini.

“You were saying to [her] ‘you have got a great body',” Ms Wass said.

“I suppose so,” Harris replied.

“When she was 13 … You admired her body,” Ms Wass said

“On one occasion,” Harris said.

“You admired her sexually,” Ms Wass said. “Saying ‘your body looks good in a bikini’, that’s a sexual remark.”

“In hindsight I suppose so,” Harris said.

But he denied ever sexually assaulting her on the holiday, repeatedly saying “it never happened”.

And he also denied ever going up to her bedroom back in the UK, saying the complainant’s mother must have lied to the court when she remembered it.

Ms Wass confronted Harris with his words to the angry brother of the main complainant over the phone: “It takes two to tango”.

“I wanted to let him know that it was a consensual relationship, that both sides had been involved,” Harris said.

Ms Wass said it was an arrogant, dismissive response to being accused of child abuse.

“Yes, assuming he did accuse me on the phone,” Harris said. “It was a very heated phone call and I was trying to justify myself.”

Ms Wass accused Harris of tailoring his evidence to match his confession in a letter he wrote to the main complainant’s father. “No, I don’t think so. I don’t agree,” Harris replied.

He said it never crossed his mind at the time that he had been accused of a crime.

Ms Wass said he was sending a coded message to her family that “you were untouchable and nobody would believe her.”

“You were worried about police,” she said.

“It never entered my mind,” Harris replied.

Ms Wass said Harris had “given away rather too much” in the letter.

In the letter, shown to the jury, Harris wrote: “When I see the misery I have caused [name] I am sickened by myself”.

Ms Wass said it wouldn’t make sense to admit this if – as Harris said - they had simply had a consensual affair that ended when they drifted apart.

The trial at Southwark Crown Court before Mr Justice Sweeney continues.

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