Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

New NZ victims of Rolf Harris emerge

More than a dozen women have come forward after MP Maggie Barry spoke out

Harris visited NZ in 1986, ironically to campaign against child abuse. Photos / AP, NZ Herald
Harris visited NZ in 1986, ironically to campaign against child abuse. Photos / AP, NZ Herald

National MP Maggie Barry says more than a dozen New Zealand women have approached her to say they were also indecently assaulted by disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris — and one is considering an official complaint to police after decades of silence.

Ms Barry revealed yesterday that she was groped by Harris in a Palmerston North recording studio when she was working as a journalist.

Ms Barry's comments come after a jury at the Southwark Crown Court found the 84-year-old guilty this week of 12 indecent assaults against four women between 1968 and 1988. His youngest victim was aged 7.

Watch: Children's TV star Rolf Harris jailed for sex assaults

Video

Former TVNZ makeup artist Lee Howden told RadioLIVE she was also sexually assaulted as she did his make-up for an on-air interview. She said she fled the room after he put his hand into her underwear.

While she never reported the incident, she was inspired to come forward after hearing Ms Barry's account and was prepared to make an official police complaint.

The North Shore MP said after speaking out about her experience she had received eight emails, four phone calls and a visit to her electorate office from women who also claimed they had been groped or assaulted by the convicted sex offender while he was in New Zealand.

Read: Harris gets five-year-nine-month sentence

Many were fellow journalists who had also experienced his "wandering hands" during interviews.

"A senior writer that I worked with said she couldn't believe it. She was disgusted and got angry with him."

One of the allegations was more serious.

"I just got off the phone to a woman who rang me with a horrible story. [Harris] did a Christmas function at a foster home when she was a foster child here in Auckland.


She said there were four or five girls and
they would say: 'It's your turn to sit on
his knee this time' because he was Santa
and would give out presents to the children.

Maggie Barry, National MP

"She was nine years of age, and he did unspeakable things to her, absolutely awful. She said: 'If you've got the balls to do it, I've got the balls to come out and say it'.

"She said it's been destroying her life, she's now 44 years of age, she feels it has eaten away at her self-respect. She tried to tell people and no one believed her.

"She said there were four or five girls and they would say: 'It's your turn to sit on his knee this time' because he was Santa and would give out presents to the children."

The MP had encouraged the woman to seek counselling and make a formal complaint to police.

"I'm no expert in these matters. But if they've kept it to themselves for a long period of time ... they need to have some counselling."

New Zealand Police said yesterday they were seeking clarification on incidents here raised at Harris' trial and if anyone had information about potential offending by Harris in New Zealand "then we would encourage them to contact police".

"Even if prosecution is ultimately determined not to be an option in New Zealand, it is important that victims have the opportunity to have their voices heard and for their information to be used as part of any relevant justice process where possible."

Ms Barry said she was not considering a formal complaint.

"I felt I dealt with it at the time. Basically I faced him down, he apologised and that's why we did the interview.

"I guess having stood up and called him a sleazy creep and all the rest of it I felt like I'd got it out of my system, made my point and stood up to him.

"He didn't do to me what he did to seven and eight-year-old girls, obviously."

"While I was horrified and surprised, because I'd always quite liked his programmes on telly, he said he was sorry. It didn't occur to me to take it further. I didn't feel I needed to speak out about it."

Harris, who first found fame in the 60s, visited New Zealand in 1986 to campaign against child abuse. He told the Herald at the time he had a carefree childhood and wanted to "repay a little bit of that carefree childhood to help kids who haven't had one".

He was also a regular face on New Zealand television screens at the time, gaining popularity with his painting, and musical hits such as Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.

His conviction is now the most high-profile of those achieved by officers from Scotland Yard as part of the sex crime investigation Operation Yewtree, set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

- NZ Herald

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