“The great celeb witchhunt.” That’s how one newspaper referred to Operation Yewtree just six days ago. Until April, Yewtree’s detectives had, it is true, failed to secure a conviction. They are also obliged to follow up many allegations that will not lead to trial. But the jailing yesterday of Rolf Harris for indecently assaulting girls was the result of a consistent prosecution case that grew in strength as the trial progressed.
The exposure of Harris’s true character is shocking, even after the horrors of Jimmy Savile’s abuse. Savile was a weirdo, although few knew of the extent of his predation. Max Clifford, the first man convicted under Operation Yewtree, was a bully and proud of it. Both men had come close to revelling in their crimes, toying with interviewers.
Where Clifford tried to control the press from the courtroom, Rolf Harris’s last resort – in the face of strikingly similar accusations from 10 women who didn’t know one another – was to try to charm the jurors to an acquittal or stalemate. Hence the chuckling anecdotes in his testimony, courtroom impersonations of the didgeridoo and wobble board, and sudden outburst of ’60s song “Jake the Peg”.
Could this man, married for 56 years to his wife Alwen, really be a serial sexual predator who used his fame to attack in public? Who assaulted an eight-year-old girl as well as his daughter’s 13-year-old best friend?
Yes. He has haunted his victims, and corrupted childhood innocence. Now begins the process of Rolf Harris’s associates falling over themselves to scrub him from their history. We may want to forget – but we shouldn’t.