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Rolf Harris was 'nicknamed 'The Octopus' because of his wandering hands'

The presenter is accused of a string of sexual assaults against a number of women.

Image: John Stillwell/PA Wire/Press Association Images

TELEVISION PRESENTER ROLF Harris used his status as a television celebrity to carry out a string of sexual assaults on girls in Britain and New Zealand, including his daughter’s friend, a court heard.

The 84-year-old artist — a fixture on British screens for decades who once painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II — was nicknamed “the Octopus” at an Australian TV channel because of his wandering hands, prosecutors told a British court.

One alleged victim was a friend of Harris’s daughter who he first abused on holiday aged 13, while another was an eight-year-old who he allegedly groped when she went to get his autograph, the jury heard.

Harris is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four female complainants, aged from seven or eight to 19, between 1968 and 1986. He denies the charges.

“Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable,” prosecutor Sasha Wass told Southwark Crown Court in London.

“Concealed behind this charming and amicable children’s entertainer lay a man who exploited the very children who were drawn to him.”

He is the latest in a series of celebrities to face trial in Britain since the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was exposed as a prolific child sex offender in 2012.

‘Jekyll and Hyde’

The bearded, bespectacled star is well-known as a painter, entertainer and television presenter and once topped the charts with songs including “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” and “Two Little Boys”.

The star’s wife Alwen and other family members accompanied him to court. Wearing a multi-coloured tie and a dark suit, he listened to proceedings through a special hearing device.

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But the prosecutor said there was a “Jekyll and Hyde” aspect to Harris’s character.

Harris allegedly first abused his daughter’s friend while on holiday in Hawaii when she was 13 and then “groomed her like a pet” over many years, the court heard.

On the first occasion, Harris pretended to hug and tickle the alleged victim while she was wrapped only in a towel, then touched her genitals, Wass said.

The girl became terrified of Harris and started drinking at the age of 14 as the abuse continued. Teachers noticed that she was often tearful, but her parents trusted Harris as he was a “pillar of society”, the court heard.

Harris later wrote a letter to her father admitting having a consensual affair with the woman when she was older and expressing “self-loathing” and feeling “sickened” by himself, Wass said.

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