Convicted paedophile and ex-entertainer Rolf Harris dies at 93

Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in central London in 2014. Harris was jailed for five years, nine months for sex assaults.
Veteran entertainer Rolf Harris arrives at Southwark Crown Court in central London in 2014. Harris was jailed for five years, nine months for sex assaults. Copyright NIKLAS HALLE'N/Niklas Halle'n
By Anca UleaAP
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The former entertainer was a mainstay of family programming in the UK and Australia. In 2014, he was jailed for a series of sexual assaults on young girls.

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Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris, who became a household name in the UK before his decades-long career collapsed when he was found guilty of sexually assaulting young girls, has died with neck cancer. He was 93. 

His death was confirmed by a registrar at Maidenhead Town Hall, west of London, to Britain’s Press Association news agency. Harris had been seriously ill with neck cancer and receiving 24-hour care, local media reported late last year.

An artist and musician, Harris became famous in the 1950s with his hit record "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport," and his jovial on-screen persona quickly amassed him thousands of adoring fans, most of them children.

He released other hit songs like his rendition of "Two Little Boys," which spent six weeks at number one in the UK, the last chart-topper of the 1960s and the first of the 1970s. He also hosted several prime-time TV shows, and even performed with the Beatles.

At the height of his career, he was granted the rare privilege of painting a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II - so respected was he across Britain.

But all that fell apart in 2013, when Harris was arrested after a massive British police investigation which came on the heels of revelations that the late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile had been a prolific child abuser.

A tarnished legacy

After a high profile trial in July 2014, Harris was found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault on four young girls from the 1960s to the 1980s. Prosecutors said he had a "Jekyll and Hyde" personality who used his fame to exploit his victims. 

Among the victims was a friend of Harris’ daughter, who claimed he molested her when she was aged 13 to 19. Harris had said their relationship was consensual, and his relatives and friends supported him throughout the trial.

But a jury convicted him of all charges, and a judge sentenced him to five years and nine months in prison.

After his conviction, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, which had previously described Harris as “one of the world’s most iconic entertainers,” said it would withdraw his fellowship.

Even in death, Rolf's legacy as an entertainer has been overshadowed by his horrific crimes.

British media held no punches with their headlines announcing his death. Sky News wrote "Rolf Harris: Convicted paedophile who used his fame to groom young girls dies aged 93".

British tabloid The Daily Mail was more verbose; their headline reads: "Rolf Harris dead at 93: Paedophile TV host and musician who became one of Britain's biggest stars and rubbed shoulders with royalty before he was jailed for child sex crimes in 2014 'is killed by neck cancer'"

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