The death of convicted paedophile Rolf Harris has been announced. The former Australian entertainer was 93-years-old and had become very ill with neck cancer, developed since he was released from prison on parole in 2017, three years into a five years and nine months sentence, after he was found guilty of a series of historic indecent assaults on young girls, between 1968 and 1986.
It is understood that he died nearly two weeks ago and apparently a private ambulance was photographed outside his £5 million Berkshire mansion – where he had been living as a recluse with his wife, Alwen – on 11 May.
Prior to his shocking crimes being brought to trial the sex offender, who never apologised to any of his victims, had established himself as one of the UK’s best loved entertainers. He hosted a catalogue of hit children’s TV and family variety shows, and later became associated with animal rescue programmes.
He became known for his painting and his famous catchphrase: Can you guess what it is yet?” In 2006 he was invited into Buckingham Palace to paint a portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II to mark her 80th birthday. He had been awarded a full set of OBE, MBE and CBE, but automatically had the honours stripped from him with the guilty verdict.
His death was only registered earlier today (23 May) with Windsor and Maidenhead Council. It has also been revealed that the disgraced former star has already had a secret funeral.
Harris was hospitalised during his time behind bars when his diabetes lurched completely out of control. More recently he had been struggling to talk and was fed through a tube. The family have released a statement: “This is to confirm that Rolf Harris recently died peacefully surrounded by family and friends and has now been laid to rest.” They asked for their privacy to be respected and said no further comment would be made.
His frail wife is also in very poor health. Now 91 she is wheelchair bound due to Alzheimer’s disease, and requires round the clock care.
Judge tells it how it is
The shamed celebrity was initially found guilty of 12 attacks on four different girls at his trial at Southwark Crown Court in 2014, with the jury choosing not to convict him of two additional cases. One of the convictions was later overturned, but Court of Appeal judges dismissed his application to challenge the other 11 convictions.
The victims included an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two girls in their early teens and a friend of his own daughter. The judge in passing sentence said at the time: “You have shown no remorse for your crimes at all and now your reputation lies in ruins; but you have no one to blame but yourself.”
It was far removed from the clean cut image he carved for himself after arriving in London in 1952, as an ambitious 21-year-old. He married in 1958 and had a daughter, Bindi. His popularity grew through his comical hit songs: Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport and Jake The Peg. Later in his career he was awarded a Bafta fellowship by his peers.
Still maintained his innocence
Harris hadn’t spoken publicly at all following his release from jail, but did make a statement in William Merritt’s book – Rolf Harris: The Defence Team’s Special Investigator Reveals the Truth Behind the Trials, in which he clearly feels his convictions were unjust and retained a bitter resentment.
It read: “I understand we live in the post truth era and know few will want to know what really happened during the three criminal trials I faced as it’s easier to condemn me and liken me to people like Saville and Glitter.”
He strongly defended himself stating: “I was convicted of offences I did not commit in my first trial. That is not just my view, but the view of the Court of Appeal who overturned one of my convictions. I had already served the prison sentence by the time of the appeal.”
He went on to say: “The evidence found proved my innocence to two subsequent juries. I’d be in prison serving a sentence for crimes I did not commit if it were not for William’s investigation. It is difficult to put into words the injustice that I feel.”
Irrespective of his feelings towards those behind his convictions, he still flatly refused to offer any sort of apology to his victims for his disgraceful actions, and now he never will.