Woman tells court of Harris 'grope'

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Rolf Harris denies the charges. Rolf Harris denies the charges.

An 18-year-old woman thought she was going to be raped when Rolf Harris pinned her against a wall and groped her, a court has heard.

Giving evidence at Southwark Crown Court today, the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said she met the entertainer while on holiday in Malta in 1970.

Her boyfriend hurt his foot while swimming, and Harris, now 84, came out of a bar and helped them find a doctor, the jury was told.

The woman then went back to thank the artist, and he took her into a side room, offering to show the aspiring art student some of his work.

It is claimed he pinned her against a wall and gave her a "slobbery" kiss before touching her intimately.

The woman said of the kiss: "It was quite slobbery. It wasn't very nice.

"I was quite shocked, more shocked than anything."

She told the jury at first she was "a bit flattered", and that after the alleged assault Harris "just stopped whatever he was doing and just cuddled me".

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC asked her: "Did he say anything?"

She replied: "(He said) 'I'm sorry'."

The woman said she was "just in shock really, happy that was it. I thought I was going to be raped. I don't know what I thought really."

Afterwards the pair went back to the bar, where the woman told the court she had her photograph taken with Harris.

She said the entertainer squeezed her arm "really tight" as the picture was taken.

"It was as if it was an apology," the woman said.

The alleged victim is not named on the indictment because the claimed incident happened abroad before such crimes could be prosecuted in the UK, but has been called as a prosecution witness.

Harris, from Bray in Berkshire, is accused of 12 counts of indecent assault on four alleged victims between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

He listened intently from the glass-walled dock, with wife Alwen and other family members including his niece and brother-in-law watching from the public gallery.

The court also heard from two other women who are supporting prosecution witnesses and were flown over from Australia and New Zealand to give evidence.

The first of these women told the jury of six men and six women that when she was 11-years-old, Harris told her that he wanted to be the first person to give her "a tongue kiss".

She was at a family friend's home in Australia in 1969 while she was off sick from school, and came downstairs in her pyjamas and saw Harris, who had been polishing a piece of wood, the court heard.

The woman said: "When I came down the stairs he asked me how old I was, and he said 'good, I want to be the first one to introduce you to a tongue kiss'.

"I just stood there, I didn't think anything. I just stood there, I froze."

It is claimed that Harris got her in "a gentle hug" and kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth.

She said: "He put his tongue in my mouth and gave me a tongue kiss.

"It seemed like it lasted forever but it must have been very quick.

"I was quite repulsed by it. Absolutely repulsed."

The court heard that the woman was assaulted by her cousin when she was 17, but was forbidden from reporting it by her parents.

In cross-examination, the woman said the incident with her cousin brought up a recollection of the alleged Harris abuse.

"It triggered my memory to bring it up again," she said.

But the woman rejected a suggestion by Sonia Woodley QC, defending, that she had confused the incident with her cousin and the Harris claim.

The third woman broke down as she said she saw "the dark side" of Harris when he groped her as they danced.

Jurors were told that she was 16 or 17 and was working for a wine company at a party in New Zealand in 1970 when she met the entertainer.

She said that she and another member of staff had photographs taken with Harris and his friend, and he gave her his autograph.

At first he was "very friendly and very relaxed", and was "being stupid" posing for the pictures, she told the jury.

"He was being stupid. He was acting up for the camera in a way that he wanted to be noticed by the camera.

"He was very comfortable with himself, he was very confident, he was making everybody feel very relaxed. He was the public Rolf Harris, the entertainer. A very big act. Very 'look at me', laughing and joking.

"I thought he was exactly what he was on television."

Harris then asked her to dance, slid his hand onto her bottom and put it between her legs, the court heard.

Breaking down, the woman told the court: "We were dancing and we had had a photo taken, he was talking to me and I felt relaxed, comfortable. In a flash, in a moment... I saw the dark side of a man who I thought could be trusted.

"I was in a public place, he slid his hand down my back against my bottom and then in a moment put his hand up my skirt and tried to put his hand in between my legs."

After the woman felt Harris's hand between her legs, she said she pushed him away and left the venue.

She told the court: "In my wildest dreams I didn't expect that behaviour.

"I didn't expect him to touch me, or to touch me in my most private area of my body."

The woman told the jury that she informed her mother about what had happened the next day.

"I told her what a disgusting, vile, repulsive man that he was and how he had totally taken away trust and the fact that he was a celebrity that he violated my trust."

In April last year after media reports that Harris had been questioned by police, she said she felt relieved.

She told the court: "I thought 'they've finally got the bastard'.

"It was all those years later but it was unbelievable the relief I felt."

In heated cross-examination by Sonia Woodley QC, defending, the woman was asked to explain why she had said Harris "tried" to put his hand up her skirt in an initial police statement.

The witness told the barrister: "Don't try to twist things please."

She went on: "I can clearly recall what happened."

In another corrected statement the woman had not mentioned Harris's hand between her legs, the court heard.

The woman asked Ms Woodley: "How do you sleep at night?"

The barrister replied: "I'm afraid I have a job to do and I have to ask you questions."

Harris had "an evil dark side", the woman said, and she told the court she had kept his autograph and pictures from the day as a reminder to be "wary" of trusting people.

"I kept these photos and I kept that autograph as a reminder of how what you see is not always what happens in life. It reminded me of how somebody can be completely different and to be very, very wary of trusting people."

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow.

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