Rolf Harris 'a Jekyll and Hyde character'

Rolf Harris. Photo Reuters
Rolf Harris. Photo Reuters
Rolf Harris wrote to the father of one of the girls he's alleged to have indecently assaulted, apologising for his behaviour, but insisting he didn't have sexual relations with her while she was underage.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC opened the crown's sex abuse case by telling the jury there was a "pattern" of Harris using his celebrity to approach girls in a friendly fashion before assaulting them.

Harris is accused of indecently assaulting four girls, one as young as seven or eight, between 1968 and 1986 in the UK. He denies all the charges.

Ms Wass said one of the four main complainants was a close friend of Harris's daughter, Bindi, who joined the family on an overseas holiday in the late 1970s.

The entertainer allegedly abused the then 13-year-old for the first time in Hawaii after she'd taken a shower at their hotel and was wrapped in a towel.

Harris indecently touched the teenage girl then and on subsequent occasions both in Hawaii and Australia.

When the victim returned to London after the holiday she started drinking and within a few years was a teenage alcoholic.

Ms Wass said the victim was subsequently abused by Harris over the next 15 years.

"Harris groomed her like a pet on that trip", the prosecutor said, adding that by the time Bindi's friend was in her 20s she effectively did whatever the entertainer said.

The complainant herself has said it was like she was his "little toy".

In 1997, the court heard, Harris wrote a letter to the complainant's father admitting he'd had sexual relations with his daughter, but not when she was underage.

"When I see the misery I have caused (her) I am sickened by myself," Harris wrote.

"When I realised the enormity of what I had done and how I had affected her whole life I begged her for forgiveness and she said 'I forgive you'. Whether she meant it or not I don't know."

He concluded the letter to the complainant's father by stating: "I would like to talk to you to apologise for betraying your trust and for unwittingly so harming your darling."

However, Ms Wass said the 1997 letter was akin to former US president Bill Clinton admitting to smoking cannabis but insisting he hadn't inhaled. It was a "confess and avoid" letter.

Ms Wass said Harris had effectively "nailed his colours to the mast" because the defendant couldn't now say Bindi's friend had invented the entire story.

Earlier, the prosecutor had told the jury that Harris's assaults were committed at the height of his celebrity and his fame meant no-one suspected or challenged his behaviour.

His charming and amicable manner hid another darker side, Ms Wass said, adding the artist and singer was "a Jekyll and Hyde character".

"This hidden side is what this case is about - and it is known only to Harris and those he molested, the lawyer told Southwark Crown Court.

"Harris was too famous, too powerful, his reputation made him untouchable."

The court heard witnesses would reveal they didn't complain at the time because they thought no-one would believe them.

However, an older TV make-up artist in Australia has said that to those in the know, Harris was referred to as "the octopus" because of his roaming hands.

Harris watched Friday's proceedings from a glass-walled dock inside the court. He listened with the aid of a hearing loop.

The veteran entertainer arrived at court holding hands with his wife, Alwen, and daughter.

The trial, expected to last until the end of June, continues.

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