News

Local shocked at ‘friend’ Rolf Harris

SHOCKED AT HIM: Cathy Henkel at Minyon Falls
SHOCKED AT HIM: Cathy Henkel at Minyon Falls Cathy Henkel

WHEN former Clunes resident Cathy Henkel introduced one of her 13-year-old performers to Rolf Harris in 1986, the last thing on her mind was testifying against her long term friend for indecently assaulting her.

"That never ever occurred to me for a moment; I never saw that dark and sinister side of him that's now been revealed," Ms Henkel said.

After being found guilty on 12 counts of indecently assaulting four girls between 1968 and 1986, the Australian-born performer will be sentenced on Friday, London time.

Ms Henkel met Harris and wife Alwen Hughes at a South African hotel in the early 1970s and they quickly struck up a friendship that lasted 40 years.

"He was very charming, he had a nice smile, he was funny and he sort of encouraged me to come to Australia," Ms Henkel said.

"That began a long and rather strange friendship."

In 1978, Ms Henkel moved to Clunes and studied at Lismore's Northern Rivers College to become a teacher.

When the opportunity came to join the Shopfront Theatre in 1982, she moved to Sydney and became a director.

"We took a tour of young people to the UK in 1986 and Rolf had offered to come and meet us at the airport."

During a meeting with the performers at a London pub, Harris indecently assaulted Tonya Lee, 13, by putting his hand up her skirt while she was sitting on his lap.

The ABC reported that Ms Lee testified at Harris's trial that after sitting on Harris's lap he followed her to the toilet and waited outside, only to assault her again.

Ms Henkel said: "Of course I had no idea he had done this to Tonya, who was only 13.

"My memory of it was it was a really lovely night and Rolf was really generous."

But 27 years later Ms Henkel found out about the incident when she was contacted by media last year, then by Scotland Yard and asked to provide a statement.

Within a year Ms Henkel was in Southwark Court testifying against Harris.

Guilt doesn't haunt Ms Henkel over arranging the meeting but she does feel responsible.

"Certainly I did organise the meeting and invite him and I feel really bad about that, but I didn't do anything wrong ... I had no idea that anyone was at risk.

"If I had even an inkling that he might have done something inappropriate I wouldn't have done that."

She welcomed the verdict.

"I do think the evidence was pretty compelling against him," she said.

"I was only surprised they took so long to deliberate."

Topics:  editors picks, rolf harris, sexual abuse




Forget fast food and pub grub - try Casino's new restaurant

Brian Conderan is opening a new restaurant at the Oxford Hotel in Casino called Top Deck.

"This town has never done this kind of menu before."

Body of missing man recovered by police divers

The man went missing on Wednesday after his car was swept off a bridge on Martins Road into floodwaters at Larnook.

Days of searching after car swept into floodwaters

Ballina sports space sold to developer for hefty sum

FOR SALE: The State Government is selling a large block of land at Quays Dr, West Ballina.Photo Graham Broadhead / Ballina Shire Advocate

Rare open green space sold to property developer

Latest deals and offers

Deborah Conway: A String of Pearls, after 25 years

PARTNERS IN MUSIC: Deborah Conway and Willy Zygier are releasing their latest album, Everybody is Begging (2016).

Deborah Conway celebrates 25th anniversary of release

GANGgajang brings new and old hits

STREETWISE: The band at the opening of GANGgajang Way in Bundaberg, Queensland, last year.

Iconic Aussie band returns to Lismore

What's on the small screen this week

Bella Frizza in a scene from the TV series Married At First Sight.

THE Block's $65,000 bathroom is revealed and strangers marry.

MOVIE REVIEW: Life on the Road

Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith and Foregone Conclusion (Steve Clarke, Andy Burrows, Stuart Baxter Wilkinson, Michael Clarke) in a scene from David Brent: Life on the Road.

Ricky Gervais has brought David Brent back to life on the big screen

Jessica Alba wants tequila shots served at her funeral

Businesswoman and actor Jessica Alba

There won't be mourning at this funeral

Tom Hiddleston's Instagram account hacked

Actor Tom Hiddleston

Thor star the latest celebrity targetted by hackers

REVEALED: Pat Rafter's $18m Coast house on the market

Check out the photos of the Coast's most expensive property for sale

The "correction we had to have" in Gladstone's rentals

UPWARD MARCH: The rental vacancy rate in Gladstone has improved for the first time in more than a year, providing a confidence boost in the market.

Vacancy rates improve with signs that things are getting betterF

ISLAND FOR SALE: Cheap Fraser Coast island drops price again

Suna Island in the Great Sandy Strait will be auctioned by Ray White Hervey Bay on Saturday morning.

This is the cheapest island you will find for sale in Australia

How a family home can fit on a 250sq m block

This is what you can build on 250m2.

Here's the floor plan of a home built on 250sq m

Investors eye Gladstone's $4m island with resort approval

UP FOR SALE: Turtle Island is on the market.

CHINESE and Sydney investors flag interest in Gladstone island.

Take a sneak peek at this $19m Whitsunday mansion

Mandalay House features a private helipad.

Mandalay is currently on the market with an asking price of $19m