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Disgraced TV entertainer and sex offender Rolf Harris dies aged 93

Disgraced TV entertainer and sex offender Rolf Harris dies aged 93

Disgraced entertainer and convicted sex offender Rolf Harris has died at the age of 93.

A statement from his family, released through his solicitor on Tuesday, said: “This is to confirm that Rolf Harris recently died peacefully surrounded by family and friends and has now been laid to rest.

“They ask that you respect their privacy. No further comment will be made.”

According to his death certificate, Harris died of neck cancer and “frailty of old age” at his home in Bray, Berkshire, on May 10.

Australian-born Harris was a family favourite in the UK for decades before he was exposed as a paedophile in June 2014, when he was convicted of 12 indecent assaults involving victims as young as seven or eight, at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

Taking place between 1968 and 1986, they included one assault on an eight-year-old autograph hunter, two on girls in their early teens, and a catalogue of abuse against his daughter’s friend that spanned 16 years.

Once a much-loved artist and musician, Harris was jailed for five years and nine months.

In May 2017, he was formally cleared of four unconnected historical sex offences, which he had denied.

Rolf Harris pictured in 2012 speaking to the late Queen Elizabeth II with Kylie Minogue, backstage at The Diamond Jubilee Concert (PA)
Rolf Harris pictured in 2012 speaking to the late Queen Elizabeth II with Kylie Minogue, backstage at The Diamond Jubilee Concert (PA)

Later the same year, one of the 12 indecent assault convictions was overturned by the Court of Appeal.

Harris was released on licence from HMP Stafford on May 19, 2017, less than three years after his sentence began.

He is understood to have since lived a reclusive lifestyle at his home in Berkshire.

Harris was the second person convicted under high-profile sex crime investigation Operation Yewtree - a national inquiry set up in the wake of abuse claims against late DJ and entertainer Jimmy Savile.

Harris once fronted a campaign warning children about the dangers of sexual predators, and was known to be associated with Savile.

A former favourite of the royal family – the Queen once posed for him to paint her portrait – Harris had charmed millions with his innocent ditties, didgeridoo, genial manner and skill as a painter.

His downfall shocked the entertainment world and the millions of families who adored his performances, particularly as a child entertainer.

Sentencing Harris at Southwark Crown Court in 2014, Mr Justice Sweeney told him: “Your reputation lies in ruins. You have been stripped of your honours and you have no-one to blame but yourself.

Harris performing on the main stage at Glastonbury music festival in 2002 (PA)
Harris performing on the main stage at Glastonbury music festival in 2002 (PA)

In light of his conviction, Harris was stripped of his CBE and had his 2012 Bafta fellowship removed. He also had Australian honours taken away.

He had been made an MBE in the 1960s, OBE a decade later and CBE in 2006 – the year after he painted the late queen’s 80th birthday portrait.

The decision to revoke an honour, which can be recommended by the Honours and Appointments Secretariat to the Forfeiture Committee, must be approved by the sovereign.

His death follows a reported battle with neck cancer which is said to have left the former star struggling to eat or speak.

Private investigator William Merritt, who penned book Rolf Harris: The Truth behind the Trials, previously told MailOnline that Harris was “very sick” when he last saw him, late last year.

Harris had been one of the most popular and versatile entertainers of his time.

His television career spanned more than half a century and his Australian background and twang, with his wobble-board invention, didgeridoo, TV series involving sick animals and ability to paint a full canvas in an astonishingly short time, made him a favourite among young and old.

Some of his songs, notably Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport, Sun Arise, Two Little Boys and Jake The Peg, made him one of the best-known vocalists of his era.

His skill as a painter and apparently genuine love of animals, typified in the hugely popular BBC series Animal Hospital, and his ostensibly genial manner, made him unique as a television star.

He was born in a suburb of Perth, Western Australia, on March 30, 1930, and as an adolescent was an Australian champion swimmer.

He first came to the United Kingdom aged 22 as an art student.

Harris with his daughter Bindi, then aged three, at Heathrow Airport in 1967 (PA)
Harris with his daughter Bindi, then aged three, at Heathrow Airport in 1967 (PA)

It was not long before he became a familiar figure on television, with an array of musical instruments and songs, some his own composition, others traditional.

He would also paint pictures on large boards in an apparently slapdash manner, with the odd nonsense song thrown in, teasing the audience with his catchphrase: “Can you tell what it is yet?”

He regularly appeared on television, in popular series such as The Rolf Harris Show, which spanned three decades.

Between 1988 and 1992 he presented Rolf’s Cartoon Club, a children’s show combining his love of art with exhibiting children’s cartoons.

From 1994 to 2004 he hosted the award-winning TV programme Animal Hospital, chronicling the real-life activity of a British veterinary practice.

Later he presented Rolf On Art, highlighting the work of some of his favourite artists.

The programme made history by gaining the highest TV ratings for an arts programme.

In August 2022 ITV announced they were working on a documentary featuring the testimonies of Harris’s victims and the police who had been involved in his case.

The first episode of Rolf Harris: Hiding In Plain Sight, aired last week.