Children's TV entertainer to convicted sex offender
LONDON • Rolf Harris, the veteran entertainer whose decades-long career as a family favourite on British and Australian television was shattered when he was convicted of sexual assaults on young girls, has died. He was 93.
Harris “died peacefully surrounded by family and friends and has now been laid to rest,” said a family statement released Tuesday. It did not provide details.
Harris, who had a hit record with Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, was adored by generations of children for his jovial onscreen persona, and was so respected in Britain that he was once granted the rare privilege of painting a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. But his TV career, which spanned half a century, collapsed in 2013, when he was arrested in Britain in relation to sexual abuse allegations.
Many were left in disbelief when in July 2014 Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on four young girls from the 1960s to the '80s. Prosecutors said he had a “Jekyll and Hyde” personality and used his fame to exploit his victims.
Among the victims was a friend of Harris' daughter, who claimed he molested her from age 13 to 19. Harris had said their relationship was consensual, and his relatives and friends supported him throughout the trial.
But a jury convicted him of all charges, and a judge sentenced him to five years and nine months in prison.
He was released on license in 2017. That same month he was also cleared of four unconnected sex offences that he had denied. Later that year, the Court of Appeal overturned one of his 12 indecent assault convictions.
He had enjoyed a 60-year career as a successful television presenter, songwriter and artist. He was best known for his children's television shows such as Rolf's Cartoon Time and Animal Hospital, and had a number of hit songs in the 1960s.
Born in 1930, Harris grew up in a suburb of Perth, and was an award-winning swimmer as a teen. He launched his TV career with a slot on a BBC show in 1952. He was also known in the '60s for performing popular songs.
By the 2000s, he was considered by many to be a national treasure of sorts.
After his conviction Harris was stripped of multiple honours bestowed on him, including awards appointing him to the Order of the British Empire and the Order of Australia.
After his release from prison he withdrew from public life and spent his time at home in Berkshire, England.