Saturday, September 18, 2021

Fallen entertainer Rolf Harris faces UK abuse trial

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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Rolf Harris

Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris, who was a fixture on British television for six decades, will go on trial in London on Monday for alleged assaults against minors.

Harris, 86, who entertained millions of children until his fall from grace, will appear at the trial via video link.

The case will focus on alleged incidents between 1971 and 2004, amounting to seven counts of indecent assault and one of sexual assault.

The jury will be sworn in on Tuesday, and the case is expected to last up to five weeks, delving further into the reality behind his polished public persona.

Harris has already been stripped of honours in Australia and Britain, where Queen Elizabeth II ordered the removal of his CBE (Commander of the British Empire) — an honour one step below a knighthood.

He was held in great esteem in Britain. He painted an 80th birthday portrait of the queen in 2005 and seven years later took part in her diamond jubilee celebrations.

Although Harris gained celebrity status in Australia, he left the country for Britain in 1952 aged 22 where he went to art school. He met his wife Alwen Hughes there and the pair married in 1958, with a poodle as a bridesmaid.

Harris performed his songs at gigs in London and landed work at the BBC, securing his own television show in the 1960s.

His top musical note came in 1969 with the hit “Two Little Boys”, about two young boys who grow up to fight in a war together. The Beatles also performed a version of Harris’ “Te Me Kangaroo Down, Sport” with him.

The entertainer was also known for his quick sketches on television, accompanied by the catchphrase: “Can you tell what it is yet?”

Harris even featured in a child abuse prevention video called “Kids Can Say No” in 1985.

In his later career Harris continued in family entertainment, hosting “Animal Hospital” on the BBC from 1994 and 2003, as well as art shows.

The claims against him stemmed from a police operation launched in the wake of allegations against another BBC presenter of the same era — Jimmy Savile — who died in 2011 and was found to have used his celebrity status to sexually abuse dozens of children.

Operation Yewtree led to the conviction of five celebrities including Harris and 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter.

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