Rolf Harris ‘could not have been at Portsmouth community centre’ at time of alleged assault

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Hampshire Constabulary

Hampshire police officer resigns before being found guilty of making false statements

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Rolf Harris’ former personal assistant has denied the veteran entertainer assaulted a young girl at a Portsmouth community centre in 1969, because he would have been too much of a ‘major star’ to appear there.

Bruna Zanelli said it was ‘highly unlikely’ Harris was at the centre at the time because of his high level of fame.

Harris is currently denying a fresh string of allegations of indecent assault at London’s Southwark Crown Court.

His defence team have claimed the jury which convicted him of allegations in his first trial got it wrong, including the alleged assault on an eight-year-old girl in Portsmouth in 1969.

His former assistant said: ‘He was a major star. He was a household name. We were a management that was highly esteemed.

‘And we wouldn’t have sent any client to work at a community centre. It just wouldn’t have happened.’

Harris will not give evidence at his second trial, and is following proceedings via video-link from prison.

Opening the defence case, Stephen Vullo QC told the jury that the 86-year-old would not have much to add to the case in terms of evidence.

He said ‘I know some of them (the allegations) go back four decades, but if the defendant can say no more to you than ‘I cannot remember being there’ the evidential importance of giving evidence is actually quite weak.’

Mr Vullo told the jury of seven women and five men that the jury in trial one in 2014, when Harris was convicted of a series of offences of indecent assault carried out on four female victims, ‘got it wrong’.

He said: ‘What do we say about trial one? In short we say that the jury got it wrong in the first trial. We don’t say that lightly, we have enormous faith in the jury system.’

He added: ‘But no system is infallible. It is enough for you to say they got it wrong.’

Harris maintains his innocence and has pleaded not guilty to a further seven counts of indecent assault and one alternative charge of sexual assault.

He is accused of assaulting seven girls and women in a series of ‘brazen’ attacks spanning 30 years, the most recent in 2004, the court has heard.

Mr Vullo told the jury that, while part of the evidence will relate to Harris’s first trial, they should focus on the latest allegations he faces.

He said: ‘Trial one is and will remain a side issue for you because you are here for trial two. It is our fault because we are going to be calling evidence in respect of trial one and shifting your focus to what happened in trial one, if it’s right or wrong.’

He added: ‘It is important what happened in trial one but it is not crucial.’

The trial was adjourned until 9.30am on Friday.