Rolf Harris embraced fans in 'brotherly style', ex-tour manager tells court

Rolf Harris embraced fans in 'brotherly style', ex-tour manager tells court

Rolf Harris embraced children and fans in a "fraternal or brotherly" way, his former tour manager said.

Kenneth Jeacle, tour manager for Harris between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, was asked by prosecutor Jonathan Rees if he had ever seen Harris pull a young girl or boy onto his lap at an autograph session.

Speaking via video-link from Australia, he told Southwark Crown Court: "Sure I have, but not as you describe it.

"I have seen and witnessed Mr Harris conversing with children at the instigation of the minder at the time, parent or guardian, whatever.

"They would at times be encouraged by their parents to perhaps sit on his knee or perhaps give him a kiss on the cheek, or the parent would ask would he kiss the child, which he would always comply.

"But there were never, shall I say, incidents in my presence that Mr Harris would be the instigator of touching a child and or adult and draw him towards him.

"Mr Harris's attitude in these incidents was always that people would approach him.

"He would then perhaps open his arms and embrace them but in, shall I say, a fraternal or brotherly style or manner."

Asked by Stephen Vullo QC, defending, if he had ever seen Harris act inappropriately with his fans, he replied: "Categorically, never.

"Mr Harris was in my presence constantly respectful of children and parents alike."

Mr Vullo told the jury on Tuesday morning that the entertainer, 87, will not give evidence as part of his defence case.

He denies four charges of indecent assault against three women between 1971 and 1983.

The Australia-born former television star sat in the dock with a hearing aid for the second time since he was freed from HMP Stafford on Friday.

One of Harris's alleged victims claims when she approached him for an autograph aged 14 at an event at the Lyceum Theatre in 1971 he used both hands to pull her onto his lap.

The musician and artist is also accused of twice groping a third teenage girl after being paid £100 to appear on ITV celebrity show Star Games in 1978, and telling her she was "a little bit irresistible", the court heard.

And it is alleged he touched a 13-year-old girl's breast after filming BBC children's TV programme Saturday Superstore in 1983, and asked her "do you often get molested on a Saturday morning?", the court heard.

David Patience, for the defence, read out a list of statements from people who attended the three events the complainants allege they were assaulted at. Many of them denied seeing or hearing anybody upset or anything of concern taking place.

One included a girl who met Harris at the 1971 music event and said he had put his arm around her waist as he signed her autograph book, adding: "I must stress it was not inappropriate", the court heard.

Mr Patience also quoted ex-EastEnders actress Rula Lenska, who attended the Star Games show, as saying: "I can say, hand on heart, I never witnessed anything untoward or suspicious."

Another girl, who was five years old when the "It's A Knockout"-style event took place, said Harris had sat down next to her on a bench.

He was "incredibly sweet" and "perfectly lovely", she said, recalling a brief memory of the Aussie star laughing and giving her a cartoon, the court heard.

Statements from two boys who attended the filming of Saturday Superstore were also read to the jury.

One recalled Harris as being a "very nice fella", Mr Patience said, while another remembered him being a "perfect gentleman".

Brian Venner, who worked at production company Trans World International and came up with the idea for Star Games, said there would have been security in place to prevent members of the general public from mixing with the star competitors.

He also said that there would have been no need for taxis to ferry celebrities around the event as the area "basically was a patch of grass".

One of the alleged assaults is said to have taken place in a taxi at the event.

Asked if it had come to his attention that anything untoward had happened, he said: "From my recollection nothing untoward happened".

Mr Venner waved to Harris in the dock as he left the courtroom.

The trial continues.

PA

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