09/05/2014 08:37 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 10:59 BST

Rolf Harris Known As 'The Octopus Because Of The Way He Put Hands All Over Women'

Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Rolf Harris who appearing at Southwark Crown Court, London where the veteran entertainer escaped punishment for a string of alleged indecent assaults for years because he was "too famous", a jury has heard.

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris escaped punishment for a string of alleged indecent assaults for years because he was "too famous", a jury has heard.

Prosecutor Sasha Wass QC told London's Southwark Crown Court that the 84-year-old is "not merely a celebrity but a national popular figure" who has widespread appeal, especially as a children's entertainer.

She said of his alleged victims: "They were overawed at meeting Rolf Harris. Mr Harris was too famous, too powerful and his reputation made him untouchable."

Harris faces a total of 12 counts of indecent assault between 1968 and 1986, all of which he denies.

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Rolf Harris, with his wife Alwen and daughter Bindi, arrives at Southwark Crown Court for the start of his trial for a string of alleged indecent assaults

Opening the case to a packed courtroom, Ms Wass said Harris was a regular fixture on television in the 1970s and his "glittering career" continued well into this millennium.

The prosecutor described him as "an immensely talented man" who excelled in art, music and children's entertainment, telling jurors that he painted a picture of the Queen in 2005 to commemorate her 80th birthday and was made a CBE the following year.

Ms Wass said it was Harris's fame and reputation that meant nobody suspected him or challenged his behaviour and he was able to carry out "brazen" sexual assaults, often when other people were present or nearby.

The court heard that the entertainer was known as "the octopus" because of the way he put his hands all over women, but Ms Wass said he knew his alleged victims were in awe of him and mesmerised by him, so knew he could get away with it.

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Describing him as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character

She went on: "The prosecution does not, for a minute, suggest that there is not a good, talented and kind side to Mr Harris.

"But concealed behind this charming and amicable children's entertainer lay a man who exploited the very children who were drawn to him."

Describing him as a "Jekyll and Hyde" character, she said: "This dark side of Rolf Harris was obviously not apparent to all of the other people he met during the course of his work, and it was not apparent to those who may want to testify to his good character."

She said it was "a side of him which is sexually attracted to children and under-age girls" and "a side which gave him the confidence to molest girls knowing that they could not object and, even if they did, nobody would believe them."

Rolf Harris through the ages