Rolf Harris trial: Brother denies pressuring witness

Australian artist and entertainer Rolf Harris' sex trial is continuing. Photo / AFP
Australian artist and entertainer Rolf Harris' sex trial is continuing. Photo / AFP

Rolf Harris's older brother and manager Bruce has denied pressuring a witness in his child sex abuse trial and dismissed as "ridiculous" claims by an Australian make-up artist that the entertainer groped her more than 20 times in one day.

Bruce Harris, giving evidence from Australia via videolink, said he first heard about the allegations against his brother in May 2013 when Australian woman Tonya Lee appeared on A Current Affair.

She claimed Harris assaulted her when she travelled to London in 1986 as a 15-year-old.

Bruce admitted that after the show was aired he called Kathy Henkel, who was the director of the youth theatre group that took Ms Lee to the UK almost 30 years ago.

The 90-year-old said he wanted to know if Ms Henkel had seen the alleged indecent assault on the teenager.

"I must say I leaned on her a couple of times," Bruce Harris said, adding he'd argued if Ms Henkel was in charge of the group "surely you would have seen something happen".

Ms Henkel earlier in the trial suggested she'd felt pressured by Bruce Harris during the phone call.

But the manager told Southwark Crown Court: "I didn't put any pressure on her, no."

"I wasn't trying to get her to change her story."

The manager said he simply wanted to know if Ms Henkel - the one person he could rely on - could "back up" Ms Lee's story.

"I am protective of my brother and I wanted to find out if there was any truth to what was being said. I just didn't believe it."

Asked by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC what he'd have done if he'd found out the allegations were true he said: "I don't know." Asked if he'd have gone to the police to inform on his brother he replied: "No."

He said if he'd learnt Ms Lee was lying he'd possibly have sued the Nine Network for having aired the allegations on A Current Affair.

Bruce Harris also contradicted evidence from a Channel 7 make-up artist who said Harris groped her on two dozen occasions when filming a TV promotion in 1986.

The Australian woman, who was 24 at the time, said Harris put his hands up her shorts first in a make-up room and subsequently groped her in the television studio throughout the day.

She said people in the industry knew Harris as "the octopus".

"It's ridiculous, he would never do that and I would never let him do that," Bruce Harris said.

"That's just not possible."

Asked what would have happened if Harris did try anything, Bruce said that as an older brother "I would have shouted at him and demanded that he stop".

Bruce Harris agreed with other witnesses that Harris was "tactile" and a big hugger.

"Oh yes that is true," the manager said.

"He does it to me. He likes to demonstrate his interest in you. It's part of his nature."

But the older brother insisted he'd "never" seen Harris act inappropriately with children or young women.

Bruce Harris told the jury he'd derived his income from being his brother's manager since 1980.

A string of supporting witnesses yesterday told the court Harris was "tactile" and a great hugger who embraced everyone he met. But they insisted he was never inappropriate.

Harris is accused of indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986. He denies all the charges.

The defence is expected to close its case tomorrow.

Following lawyers' speeches and Justice Nigel Sweeney's summing up early next week the jury will retire to consider its verdict.

- AAP

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