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Saturday, 5 July 2014
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River taxi: The boat arrives to pick Harris up from his home in Bray at 7am
The Thames launch took Harris and his daughter Bindi from the family’s riverside home at Bray, Berkshire, to a car waiting elsewhere to drive him to Southwark Crown Court in London.
The 7am trip was one of the few times he has been seen publicly outside the confines of the luxury house since his arrest last year.Smiling and seemingly in high spirits, Rolf Harris delivered one last insult to his tormented victims.
In a bizarre finale to his eight-week trial, he set off by boat from his home on the Thames on the first leg of his journey to court.
And later as he waited to be sentenced, he sat relaxed, smiling and chatting to security guards – minutes after the court had been stunned into silence by the testimony of four victims in impact statements describing stolen childhoods, ruined lives and psychological damage inflicted by the perverted entertainer.
From TV helicopters overhead, Harris was filmed laughing with four other people on board the open wooden motor-boat before transferring to the car.
At Southwark he smiled briefly as he arrived – then walked slowly through the ranks of cameras and onlookers to prepare to learn his fate inside.
Date with the judge: The entertainer and daughter Bindi, right, prepare to embark''
Carefree: Rolf Harris makes cheery comments to the boat's occupants
It might have started off as a light-hearted boat trip but inside, he would have to listen as a judge effectively sent his career and his life downriver.
Not that you might have guessed that from his demeanour. His appearances here have become a daily ritual played out before the TV cameras - or, as some believed, a cynical farce.
It emerged during the case that the group travelled separately before assembling a short walk from the court to arrive in a carefully choreographed show of unity – a cheated wife, a daughter betrayed, friends and relatives humiliated.
But in the last act of that drama, one of those players was missing. His 82-year-old wife Alwen, whom he married 56 years ago, was not in court to see Harris sentenced to five years and nine months in jail.
A farewell kiss: Harris embraces one of the friends who have come to see him off''
All aboard: The boat containing Harris and Bindi prepares to set off''
Instead the group included Bindi, her husband Craig Nicholls, Harris’s niece Jenny Harris, friends and security men.
How any unity appears to have survived the sickening accounts that were detailed again in court yesterday is hard to fathom.
Yet Bindi – tightly clutching her husband’s arm – listened to every word of the victims’ statements yesterday, and to the judge when he underlined their harrowing testimony before sending Harris to jail.
She sat just 20ft from her father but barely looked at him in court.
Had she done so, she would have seen him sitting with his arms folded, leaning back in his seat, and at one stage stretching both arms out to rest on the backs of two chairs either side of him.
He asked one of the dock officers for the time – and once appeared to stifle a yawn.
The final goodbye: One final wave as Harris heads off to court... and prison''
No visible remorse, no hint of worry. He had already been warned by the judge that prison was inevitable and he sat alongside a large, brightly coloured suitcase full of belongings. He even had a cool-bag packed with drinks and a snack.
If you had to guess, you might have imagined he was a tourist waiting on an airport bench for his flight, not someone waiting to learn if he might die in jail.
Yet you did not have to look too far to understand how serious this was for others.
A smartly dressed woman sat closest to him outside the dock, silent, motionless, almost within touching distance had it not been for the glass screen.
She had first encountered him when she was 16.
She was one of his victims.
Betrayed, neglected... so why did Bindi remain so loyal?
Being the daughter of Rolf Harris has been the bane of Bindi Nicholls’ life for as long as she can remember.
As soon as people find out who her father is, she says, all they want to talk about is Rolf, which she finds ‘utterly tedious’.
But how is Bindi going to cope now people are likely to want to talk about anything but Rolf?
How bitterly ironic it may seem to her that she has finally got what she has wished for.
Troubled: Rolf Harris is pictured with her daughter in 1995. But how will she cope when people try and talk about anything but her father?
After his arrest in March last year, Bindi, 50, faced a choice: abandon her 84-year-old father or support him.
She chose the latter. Despite the unspeakable nature of his crimes, he is old and crushed – and he is her father.
But in court the possibility of a less altruistic motivation was raised – her claim on his £11million estate.
The trial was shown an email Bindi wrote to her father in 2012 saying: ‘I understand that I am sole inheritor of your estate – is this true? It’s like being told that you might be winning the lottery...’
Bindi was her father’s key witness. In her evidence, she asserted that his affair with her best friend began when the girl was about 18 or 19.
The girl said it began when she was 13 – and the jury believed the girl.
It was put to Bindi that she was financially dependent on her father and colluding with him, which she denied.
Whether pity or money or both is behind her loyalty to her father, she certainly feels fury and anguish, too.
Rolf has destroyed her 83-year-old mother’s life and – it may seem at this time – hers, too.
Even before this, Bindi was a troubled soul. Hours after she was born her father jetted off for a work commitment.
His absence, she later remarked, set the pattern for her childhood, which was marked by Bindi’s all-consuming attempts to get her workaholic father’s attention.
We now know that Harris’s sometimes detached and distant demeanour was almost certainly, in part, due to the fact he was secretly abusing her best friend, right under her nose.
After his arrest in March last year, Bindi, pictured, faced a choice: abandon her 84-year-old father or support him
Bindi was sent to an all-girls private school in Bromley. She says she was often lonely.
‘Dad was often off in Australia for three or four months of the year making programmes, so Mum was a bit of a lone parent, and I became a bit of a loner, too,’ she said in an interview in 2003.
‘I had a few good school friends. My cats were hugely important to me and I would be devastated when they died.
‘I was a very morbid child, trying to make sense of life and death as well as my own part in the world.
I’d imagine that when birds and flowers opened, they were singing the songs of my dead pets.’
She hated being the daughter of someone famous.
‘It made me mistrust people’s motives in wanting to be friends with me. I felt used by people. It was as if I didn’t matter.’
Harris said in the same interview that, when it came to encouraging his daughter’s artistic talent, he was ‘afraid I made her feel that she was never good enough’.
He also acknowledged that he had given too much time to his work at her expense, with Bindi asking: ‘You’ll spend ten minutes entertaining their little kid, but what about me?’
Bindi may have felt neglected, but friends say Rolf and Alwen’s lives focused entirely on her.
When he was in England, Rolf sometimes took Bindi to the television studio with him.
At 16, Bindi dropped out of art school, worked in a couple of shops, including Miss Selfridge, and did a stint at a hairdresser’s salon. At 21, she enrolled at Bristol University to study fine art.
Even here Rolf’s fame haunted her. ‘On the first day of term, some guy stood up and started singing, “Tie me kangaroo down, sport”. I thought, oh no, we’re off again.’
After graduating, Bindi began a relationship with Malcolm Cox, a struggling artist. Their son was born in 1996.
Bindi’s world collapsed the following year when she visited her parents with her best friend.
She was perturbed by the chemistry between Rolf and Andrea Kingston, a family friend who had moved into a converted boathouse on the property. Bindi confided in her friend, who reacted by saying: ‘What on earth does he see in her? How dare he? Your Dad is a right b******.’
Shocked, Bindi asked her friend if Harris had ever touched her, to which she replied that he had abused her for more than 16 years. The revelation caused Bindi such pain that she destroyed some of Harris’s paintings but she remained in touch with him.
She married fellow artist Craig Nicholls in 2008 and while Bindi has enjoyed some success with her work, it has not made her rich, it would seem.
In her email in 2012, she pleaded with Harris to keep the contents ‘between you and me’ and not to ‘pass it on to accountants’, adding: ‘Please imagine how it is for me. I still feel guilty about spending any money.’
Rolf Harris, center, walks with his daughter Bindi, second left outside Southwark Crown Court
When her father was arrested last year, Bindi was shattered. But in the run-up to the trial, she and her mother decided they must be seen publicly to support him.
The images of her and her mother holding hands became a daily carefully choreographed show of unity.
Bindi often cut a childlike figure. The day the guilty verdicts were reached, she wore a polka-dot skirt, dotted tights, shoes with red ribbons on them and a flower clip in her hair.
Yesterday a corsage was sewn on to her black jacket.
Neighbours at Bindi’s North London home say they haven’t seen her since she visited the house with her parents about three weeks ago.
One said: ‘Rolf came out, followed by Bindi, but she kept her distance. There were no cuddles, kisses or smiles.
‘Rolf and his wife got into a black Mercedes with a chauffeur, the sort of chauffeur you get if you don’t want people to bother you.’
Bindi didn’t wave them off.
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