London: “It takes two to tango,” Rolf Harris allegedly replied, when confronted over the phone by the furious brother of a woman he had allegedly abused since she was 13.
The mother, father, brothers and a schoolfriend of the complainant gave evidence to a London court on Wednesday, describing the woman’s descent from a shy, easy-going girl to an anxiety-crippled, alcoholic recluse who gradually confided in people that she had been assaulted by Harris.
She once told a schoolfriend Rolf Harris was a “dirty old man” who would “touch her up”, the friend said.
And her mother said Harris had visited her home on his own when her daughter was 14 or 15, asked where her daughter was, then went upstairs – but she thought little of it at the time, because she trusted him.
Harris, 84, has pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of indecent assault. Seven of those charges related to the complainant who was in the witness stand at Southwark Crown Court on Monday and Tuesday.
The complainant claims two of those assaults happened in her family home, and the abuse began on a holiday when she was only 13.
A witness said she was a close friend at school of the main complainant.
She knew Harris was a friend of the complainant’s family, and “she did mention him to me, she described him as a bit of a dirty old man”.
She thought she was probably still at school when the friend confided in her.
“He used to get her to sit on his lap and then touch her up,” she said. “It was a shocking conversation – he is a well known celebrity, well-loved by a lot of people, I would never imagine in a million years. I remember feeling quite horrified on her behalf that this had happened.”
The complainant’s mother – a stern, proud woman who gave calm, matter-of-fact evidence - also took the witness stand, saying she remembered a time when Harris visited her home on his own when her daughter was aged 14 or 15.
“He just said ‘where’s (the complainant)’, and I said ‘she’s upstairs’,” she said. He then went upstairs for half an hour or more.
The mother said she didn’t think it was untoward because he was a family friend. “I trusted him, you don’t suspect this sort of thing.”
When her daughter was in her late 20s, she confronted her angrily about her drinking.
“She said ‘well I have been abused all my life’,” the mother said. “I was completely amazed. I just said ‘what do you mean?’"
“She had been abused by her schoolfriend’s father … She wouldn’t tell me who but I wouldn’t budge until she told me. She then said ‘Rolf’.”
She had noticed that her daughter became more anxious and began having panic attacks when she returned from a holiday in Australia, when the complainant alleges Harris first abused her.
The court was read a statement by a schoolteacher at the complainant’s school, had noted at the time “she is prone to tears and has twice been weeping about private/home matters”.
“It must have meant (she) was having extreme emotional difficulty” worse than usual teenage dramas, the witness explained later.
The complainant’s father said after his daughter said she had been abused by Harris he wrote to the entertainer “expressing my disgust and said I didn’t want to speak to him or have anything to do with him”.
Weeks later he received a letter from Harris, apologising for his relationship with his daughter, but denying it began before she was 19.
“It seemed to me this (denial) was rather at odds with the content and tone of the rest of the letter,” the father said.
One of the complainant’s older brothers said after his sister began drinking it became very difficult to communicate with her – “she would appear irrational,” he said.
He once asked her what was behind her increased drinking, and she confessed that in the past she had been sexually abused by Harris when she was under the age of consent.
He said he was angry and felt guilty for being unaware. He called Harris and told him to leave his sister alone.
“I threatened physical violence (and) I told him why I was angry, I said ‘you have abused my sister sexually’,” he said.
“He said ‘it takes two to tango’.”
The complainant’s other brother said he had encouraged his sister to go to the police “as part of reclaiming her life”, but warned her only to do it when she felt ready.
The court also heard statements by psychiatric experts and alcoholism counsellors, who recalled that in the late 1990s the complainant had told them her abuse by Harris, beginning when she was 13, was behind her problem with alcohol.
“It was very clear that abuse was the cause of the alcohol problem and it had ruined her life … she blamed herself,” one counsellor said in her report which was read to the jury.
The trial before Mr Justice Sweeney continues.
The story Rolf Harris trial: 'It takes two to tango' entertainer told brother of victim, court hears first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.