May 9, 2014 5:41 pm

Rolf Harris groomed and molested 13-year-old girl, court hears

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 09: Artist and television personality Rolf Harris arrives with daughter Bindi Harris (L) at Southwark Crown Court on May 9, 2014 in London, England. Mr Harris, who was arrested in March 2013 by police officers working for Operation Yewtree, has been charged with 16 counts of indecent assault on teenage girls and of making indecent images of children. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)©Getty

Rolf Harris with his daughter Bindi outside Southwark Crown Court

Rolf Harris used his fame to groom an underage girl “like a pet”, a court heard at the opening of the 84-year-old former entertainer’s trial on Friday.

The Australian-born artist and musician is the latest celebrity to stand trial for sexual offences, after complainants came forward to make allegations against well-known figures following revelations about the late Jimmy Savile.

One of Mr Harris’s alleged victims, the daughter of family friends, became an alcoholic shortly after “repeated episodes of molestations” when aged 13, the court heard.

Mr Harris denies all 12 charges of indecent assault.

The charges refer to events between 1969 and 1994 when Mr Harris was at “the height of his popularity”, said Sasha Wass, QC, for the prosecution.

“It was precisely that popularity and that celebrity status that provided Mr Harris with access to children and young women. Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful, and his reputation made him untouchable.”

In a letter shown to the jury, Mr Harris admitted to a physical relationship with the daughter of his family friends, but denied that it began before she was about 18.

“When I see the misery I have caused [the alleged victim] I am sickened by myself,” he wrote in the letter to the girl’s father, dated 1997. “Please forgive me, love Rolf.”

The prosecution likened the letter to the former US president Bill Clinton’s statement that he had once smoked marijuana but not inhaled.

“Mr Harris cannot now suggest that she’s invented the entire facts,” said Ms Wass.

Mr Harris, who was a junior swimming champion in his native Australia, has lived in the UK since the 1960s and starred popular shows involving children and animals. He painted a portrait of the Queen to mark her 80th birthday.

His trial, expected to last several weeks at Southwark Crown Court in London, continues.

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