Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris dead at 93
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Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris dead at 93

Once one of Britain's best-loved show business stars, he lived final years in disgrace over sex crimes

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
Disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris dead at 93
Rolf Harris once painted Queen Elizabeth II, worked with The Beatles and hosted a raft of prime-time television shows. (Photo: AFP)

LONDON: The artist, presenter and musician Rolf Harris, who was one of the UK's best-loved entertainers before he was convicted of underage-sex crimes in 2014, has died aged 93, officials said on Tuesday.

A registrar at Maidenhead Town Hall, near his home west of London, confirmed the Australian-born Harris's death, after reports in British media.

Harris once painted Queen Elizabeth II, worked with The Beatles and hosted a raft of prime-time television shows in his adopted UK over the course of 60 years.

British newspapers reported in October 2022 that he was "gravely ill" after being diagnosed with neck cancer that had left him unable to speak and requiring round-the-clock care.

Harris lived his final years in disgrace after being found guilty of a string of abuse against young girls between 1969 and 1986.

He was jailed in 2014 for five years and nine months after being convicted of 12 indecent assaults, but was released in 2017, protesting his innocence.

"It is difficult to put into words the injustice I feel," he said in a statement to the author of a recent book about his arrest and prosecution.

His conviction came after a spate of allegations of abuse against high-profile entertainers in Britain following the death of the children's television presenter Jimmy Savile.

Savile, who died in 2011, was found to have used his celebrity status to sexually abuse dozens of children.

As well as Harris, the police probe, Operation Yewtree, also resulted in the conviction of 1970s glam rocker Gary Glitter, who was released from prison earlier this year.

Harris broke onto UK television screens in 1953, showcasing his drawing skills honed at the City and Guilds of London Art School in South London.

He quickly became one of the country's best-loved light entertainers.

Generations of children grew up with his art shows, and he also presented prime-time shows watched by millions.

Harris also topped the music charts in the UK and Australia and appeared at the legendary Glastonbury Festival on seven occasions.

He scored a hit with the 1969 single Two Little Boys, about two youngsters who grow up to fight in a war together, and performed his song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport with The Beatles.

His stature was once so great that he was made a Companion of the British Empire (CBE) in 2006 — one step below a knighthood — and even painted Queen Elizabeth II's portrait to mark her 80th birthday.

The entertainer's conviction caused widespread shock and soul-searching in Britain.

There was also revulsion and dismay in his homeland Australia — the country he left at the age of 22 but which treated him as a national hero.

He was inducted into the Australian Recording Industry Association Hall of Fame in 2008, but was removed after his conviction.

His CBE was revoked in 2015.

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