Rolf Harris’s older brother and manager Bruce has denied pressuring a witness in his child sex abuse trial and dismissed as “ridiculous” claims by an Australian make-up artist that the entertainer groped her more than 20 times in a single day.
Bruce Harris, giving evidence from Australia via videolink, also said he’d never heard his brother described as the “the octopus”.
The star’s manager said he first heard of the abuse allegations in May 2013 when Australian woman Tonya Lee appeared on A Current Affair.
She claimed the entertainer assaulted her when she travelled to London in 1986 as a 15-year-old.
Bruce on Wednesday admitted that after the show aired he called Catherine Henkel who was the director of the youth theatre group with which Ms Lee travelled to the UK almost 30 years ago.
The 90-year-old told Southwark Crown Court he wanted to know whether Ms Henkel – who’d known Harris for many years – had seen the alleged indecent.
“I must say I leaned on her a couple of times,” Bruce Harris said.
“In retrospect I kept on niggling away at her saying ‘Surely you must have seen something’.”
Ms Henkel previously told the court that during the 2013 phone call: “I felt pressured to say it couldn’t have happened”.
But the manager on Wednesday insisted: “I didn’t put any pressure on her.”
“I wasn’t trying to get her to change her story,” Bruce said, adding he simply wanted to know if Ms Henkel could “back up” Ms Lee’s story.
“I am protective of my brother and I wanted to find out if there was any truth to what was being said. I just didn’t believe it.”
Asked by prosecutor Sasha Wass QC what he’d have done if he’d found out the allegations were true he said: “I don’t know.”
Asked if he’d have gone to the police he replied: “No.”
The older brother said if he’d learnt Ms Lee was lying he’d possibly have sued the Nine Network which broadcast A Current Affair.
Bruce Harris also contradicted the evidence of a former Channel 7 make-up artist who claims the entertainer groped her on two dozen occasions when filming a TV promotion in 1986.
The Australian woman, who was 24 at the time, said Harris put his hand up her shorts in a small make-up room while Bruce was present.
In May she told his trial that throughout the day the star groped her “more than two dozen times”.
She said people in the industry knew Harris as “the octopus”.
But Bruce on Wednesday said: “I have never heard that one until it was stated in this case.”
He said his brother didn’t grope the make-up artist.
“It’s ridiculous, he would never do that and I would never let him do that,” the 90-year-old said.
Bruce said if his younger brother had tried anything “I would have shouted at him and demanded he stop”.
He agreed with other witnesses that Harris was “tactile” and a big hugger but argued the artist and singer was simply demonstrating “interest”.
“It’s part of his nature,” he said. The man who’s managed Harris since 1980 was adamant his client never acted inappropriately around children or young women.
Harris is charged with indecently assaulting four girls in the UK between 1968 and 1986.
Another six women have given supporting evidence that they were harassed by him in Australia, New Zealand and Malta over two decades.
The 84-year-old says they are all lying.
The defence is expected to close its case on Thursday with the jury likely to retire in the middle of next week to consider its verdict.