Rolf Harris, popular TV personality convicted of sexual assault, dies at 93
He was so respected in Britain that he once had the rare privilege of painting a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.
But his television career, which spanned half a century, came crashing down in 2013 when he was arrested in Britain in connection with allegations of sexual abuse. This followed the revelations of hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse by another longtime and beloved British TV personality, Jimmy Savile, after his death in 2011.
In July 2014, Mr Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault against four young girls from the 1960s to the 1980s. Prosecutors said he had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality and that he used his fame to exploit his victims.
Among the victims was a friend of Mr Harris’ daughter who claimed to have sexually assaulted her aged 13 to 19. Mr Harris had said their relationship was consensual, and his family and friends supported him throughout the trial.
A jury found him guilty on all charges and a judge sentenced him to five years and nine months in prison.
Mr Harris was conditionally released in May 2017. That same month he was cleared of four unrelated sex offense charges which he had denied. Later that year, the Court of Appeal overturned one of his 12 indecent assault convictions.
Rolf Victor Harris was born in Bassendean, a suburb of Perth, Australia, on March 30, 1930. He was a champion swimmer as a teenager, then attended art school in Australia before moving to England and starting his television career with a slot on a BBC broadcast in 1952.
As well as hosting children’s shows like “Rolf’s Cartoon Club”, Mr. Harris was also known in the 1960s for performing popular songs such as “Two Little Boys”, which became a No. 1 Christmas hit. in Great Britain.
In the 2000s, he was considered by many to be something of a national treasure: the Queen sat down to a portrait painted by him in 2005 to mark her 80th birthday, and the painting went on display at Buckingham Palace. He also performed in a concert celebrating the monarch’s Diamond Jubilee outside the palace in 2012.
After his conviction, Mr Harris was stripped of multiple honors 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 retired from public life and spent his time at his home in Berkshire, southern England.