Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris INM

Rolf Harris trial: Courts hears of attack on blind woman

Rolf Harris spread his hands over a blind, disabled woman like an octopus in an attack where she was "completely and utterly trapped", a woman has claimed in court.

Disabled since her premature birth, the complainant was totally blind and had to walk with sticks when she was allegedly groped by Harris at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London in 1977, Southwark Crown Court heard.

A subsequent accident has left her now unable to walk and in "intense pain" for around 18 hours a day, the court heard in a pre-recorded interview from July 2014.

Mr Harris denies seven charges of indecent assault and one of sexual assault.

The woman, who was not at the time an in-patient at the hospital, recalled feeling hot air from Harris's nostrils and his beard tickling the back of her neck after he approached "from absolutely nowhere", and could tell he was getting excited because of the rapidity of his breathing, the court heard.

She said: "I have never met anyone who could spread their hands across my body so quickly.

"They covered all my back really really fast and he got his hands going up both sides of my body and he was saying,'Well don't you like this then?' and I said 'no I don't like it'."

The alleged victim said she knew straight away it was Harris who had entered the room from his "unmistakeable voice".

She said she told him repeatedly to stop touching her but he carried on.

At one point he tried to justify his behaviour saying 'I'm just a touchy-feely sort of bloke", later adding: "Don't be like that, I'm only being friendly" when she resisted, she told the court.

The complainant, who has two full-time carers, went on: "What annoyed me was that I just could not escape, and being blind I couldn't always tell where he was.

"I was completely and utterly trapped."

Wearing a black suit and black and white tie Harris, who appeared by video-link, is serving a sentence at Stafford Prison for a series of offences of indecent assault carried out on four female victims.

He maintains his innocence, the prosecutor said, and has pleaded not guilty to a further seven counts of indecent assault and one alternative charge of sexual assault.

Each of the new alleged victims contacted the police or the NSPCC in the wake of the "widespread publicity" surrounding the first trial, prosecutor Jonathan Rees said.

She continued: "One (complainant) later described him as an octopus.

"I thought 'that's exactly what it felt like with his arms and fingers spread as far as he could spread them'.

"He completely covered me and I said to him 'If you go any lower then that's it, you are going to get a thump'."

Her voice breaking, she continued: "The way he took advantage over someone that was totally blind, virtually stuck in terms of mobility ... it's absolutely appalling. In my opinion it's as degrading as it gets.

"I felt absolutely invaded by this man," she added.

She went on: "No-one has ever behaved like that to me in my life and I have to say even my husband, at his most passionate times, never covered my body in a way that he has done.

"Rolf Harris doesn't ask permission he just grovels."

The witness said she grabbed Harris's fingers and bent them back in a bid to stop the entertainer squeezing her breasts, and he allegedly responded: "That wasn't nice".

She said: "I said 'What do you mean that's not nice?'

"He said: 'I can't get to you now'."

While being cross-examined from a wheelchair with her carer by her side, the witness said she did not know why she had not come forward sooner.

She spent a while with Harris in the room after the alleged assault, during which he spent a few moments teaching her how to play the didgeridoo he had brought, the court heard.

Asked by Stephen Vullo, defending, why she had not come forward until the publicity surrounding the first trial emerged she said: "I was just so amazed because Rolf Harris was somebody I had grown up with and we loved it. He was part of our culture and I used to love listening to him on the television.

"I truly don't know why I did not report it at the time," she added.

Jurors were shown photographs of the room in the hospital, which Mr Vullo said was about 13ft by nine foot, with a desk on the far side of the room.

Another man was in the room at the time of the alleged assault and came over once he became aware the complainant was in distress, she said.

She told the court: "He heard me shout and he got up to find out was wrong.

"I don't think he knew exactly what I said, he just heard me shout and he came over to see if I was alright, and at that point Rolf Harris backed off."

She said she thought Harris may have climaxed during the episode, where she remembered him crouching down behind her and leaning his full weight against the chair she was sitting on.

She told the court: "He was obviously getting very sexually aroused because he was pushing against the chair and after several minutes he reached a climax and there was a great exhalation of air as he felt better, as it were."

Asked by Mr Vullo if she was saying the TV presenter had ejaculated in her presence, she said: "I did not have the opportunity of seeing his trousers, nor would I wish to, but I can only tell you of the sounds he was making and the noises and the pressure he was putting on my chair."

The trial continues.


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