Rolf Harris’s greatest fear was not being loved – his depraved crimes ensure he won’t be

Entertainment

Rolf Harris’s legacy will not be as an artist who painted the Queen, or a musician who played with The Beatles, but rather as a sexual predator who carried out decades of abuse.

Once considered a jovial entertainer, on our screens for more than 60 years, a high-profile trial in 2014 saw him convicted of carrying out sex attacks on girls as young as seven.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC described Harris as a “Jekyll and Hyde” character, who, despite his child-friendly public image, was a “sinister pervert” with a “demon lurking beneath his charming exterior”.

The fact his depraved actions went without punishment for so long adds to the trauma for many of his victims, who say they will never recover.

How did his crimes go unchecked?

Again and again, Southwark Crown Court heard about the large, all-enveloping bear hug he would use to trap victims, swiftly sexually assaulting them before moving on as if nothing had happened.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence was a letter he sent to the father of one of his victims, in which he admitted he had a sexual relationship with her, but denied it began when she was just 13.

In the letter, Harris said he was shocked when his former victim told him she had gone along with everything he did “out of fear” and had asked her: “Why did you never just say no?”

He said she replied: “How could [I] say no to the great television star Rolf Harris?”

Read more: Harris, convicted paedophile who used his fame to groom young girls, dies

Rolf Harris chats to members of the press about his portrait of Her Majesty The Queen at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
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Rolf Harris once visited Buckingham Palace to paint the Queen

Harris filmed NSPCC video while abusing youngsters

One early sign of his brazen self-belief can be found in an educational video titled Kids Can Say No.

Harris himself suggested the safety video was made, even contacting the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) to gain advice on the best way to teach children about stranger danger.

Harris is now known to have been actively abusing youngsters at the time.

Filmed in 1985, Harris presents the 20-minute video, and tells a group of primary school-age children, “even people you know and trust can be abusers”.

He goes on to warn them, “sometimes people do things to one another that don’t make them feel good”.

In the video’s finale, a large group of children and adults are led by Harris in singing: “My body’s nobody’s body but mine. You’ve got your own body, let me have mine.”

Two uniformed police officers make up part of the choir.

In the gardens of Russell Square are three announcers chosen by the Radio Industry Council to appear on the television screens at the National Radio Show. They are (left) Vera McKenchnie, Helen Bailey and Rolf Harris.
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A young Harris pictured in 1955, three years after moving to the UK

Harris on Savile: ‘We go back a long time’

Skipping forward seven years, and more archive footage – this time of Harris drawing paedophile DJ Jimmy Savile in 1992 and joking “we go back a long time” – now has disturbing implications.

Savile died aged 84 in 2011, having never been brought to justice for his crimes. He is now believed to be one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders.

Harris’s 2014 trial saw a jury of six men and six women find him guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on women and girls between 1969 and 1986. One of those convictions was later overturned.

Sentenced to five years and nine months in prison, he served just three.

Harris always denied the accusations against him and showed no remorse for his crimes.

Harris with entertainer Rod Hull and Emu in 1987
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Harris with entertainer Rod Hull and Emu in 1987

Why did Harris feel untouchable?

Described in court as an arrogant man, who carried out many of his attacks in plain sight, Harris seemed to believe himself untouchable.

Born in Perth, Australia, to parents who had emigrated from Merthyr Tydfil in Wales, Harris moved to the UK in 1952.

He met his wife Alwen, a sculptor – who stood by him throughout his trial and time in jail – when they were both art students in London.

Entertainer Rolf Harris, his wife Alwen and daughter Bindi (R) leave Southwark Crown Court in London June 30, 2014. Harris, a mainstay of family entertainment in Britain and Australia for more than 50 years, was found guilty on Monday of 12 charges of indecently assaulting young girls over a period of nearly 20 years.  REUTERS/Neil Hall ( BRITAIN - Tags: CRIME LAW ENTERTAINMENT)
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Harris leaving court with his wife Alwen (L) and daughter Bindi (R) in June 2014

With a fair talent for painting and music, and ability to chat and entertain, it was a 10-minute art slot on a BBC children’s programme alongside a puppet called Fuzz that gave him the first taste of the limelight in 1953.

Swiftly embraced by British TV, he went on to front popular shows including The Rolf Harris Show, Rolf’s Cartoon Club and Rolf On Art.

A musical career, mainly with novelty songs, saw him top the charts with his cover version of Two Little Boys resting at number 1 for six weeks.

Harris’s career defied that of many children’s presenters, who struggle to maintain popularity after progressing into more mainstream shows.

His 10-year stint presenting Animal Hospital from 1994 to 2004 kept him a household name. Frequently becoming emotional about an unwell puppy or injured cat, it was an empathy Harris seemed unable to offer to his victims.

Rolf Harris, recording his new album, 'Can You Tell What It Is Yet?'
1997-09-12
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Harris was a fan of the didgeridoo, and claims to have invented the wobble board

Following his conviction, he wrote a song in jail, describing his victims as money-grabbing “wenches” who want to make him “dance”.

Harris may have wanted to be remembered as a warm-hearted man who loved animals, invented the wobble board and could draw at the speed of light.

Stripped of his CBE and BAFTA fellowship, he will instead be remembered as a paedophile and serial sexual abuser.

Harris once told a journalist his greatest fear was not being loved.

As news of his death aged 93 is met around the world, it’s a fear that has been realised, due to his actions – and his actions alone.

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