Rolf Harris' hometown moves to purge all memory of him after sex abuse conviction
Rolf Harris' hometown moved to purge all memory of the former cultural icon yesterday as Australia distanced itself from the disgraced entertainer after he was convicted of indecently assaulting girls.
Harris, 84, was found guilty of all 12 charges against him after a six-week trial in London and now faces jail. The television presenter, artist and musician assaulted four girls and young women aged from seven to 19 between 1968 and 1986, including his daughter Bindi's childhood best friend, Southwark Crown Court found.
Harris was one of Australia's best-loved personalities, who headed to London when he was 22 and made his name in Britain. He shot to fame with his signature instrument, a wobble board, and silly songs about kangaroos and a man called Jake who had an extra leg. As an artist, he painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait on her 80th birthday.
In his hometown he was a hero known as "The Boy from Bassendean", after the Perth suburb where he grew up. But now Bassendean mayor John Gangell wants nothing more to do with Harris, whose life and legacy are in ruin.
"These are heinous crimes. All privileges should be stripped from Mr Harris," he told ABC radio, adding that a meeting tomorrow would consider whether to remove his status as a freeman.
"It is a shock but it's something we must do now to distance ourselves from the crimes in which he's been convicted. Unfortunately that world stage that he's put Bassendean on has now come crashing down."
The town has removed a framed portrait of him from the council chambers and was also considering whether to take down a plaque outside the family home.
The West Australian Education Department said several Harris artworks would also be removed from the Perth Modern School, where he studied from 1943 to 1947.
City of Perth mayor Lisa Scaffidi told Fairfax radio that the council would probably tear up a footpath plaque in his honour.
"It's a very sad issue and something we need to deal with," she said.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who grew up during Harris' heyday, said he was "gutted and dismayed".
"But it's very important that we do everything we humanly can to protect vulnerable young people. Sexual abuse is an utterly abhorrent crime ... and it's just sad and tragic that this person, who was widely admired, seems to have been a perpetrator."
Harris is the second person convicted under Operation Yewtree, the high-profile investigation which was set up in 2012 after allegations that the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender.