LONDON (Reuters) - Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, a TV family favorite in his homeland and Britain for more than 50 years, was known as the "octopus" for the way he assaulted women, a London court was told on Friday.
Harris, 84, is the biggest name to go on trial since British police launched a major investigation sparked by revelations that the late BBC TV host Jimmy Savile was a prolific child sex abuser, leading to the arrest of more than a dozen aging celebrities.
Harris is known by millions in Britain and Australia for pop chart hits such as "Two Little Boys" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport."
A keen artist, he painted Queen Elizabeth's portrait in 2005, was honored by her for his services to entertainment and charity and performed at her 2012 Diamond Jubilee concert.
The white-bearded, bespectacled entertainer sat silently in the dock as he was accused of 12 counts of indecent assault against four girls between 1968 and 1986, the youngest of whom was aged just seven or eight at the time of the alleged offence.
He denies the charges.
On the opening day of what is expected to be a six-week trial at Southwark crown Court, the 12-member jury of six men and six women heard that Harris had a reputation at an Australian TV channel for his inappropriate behavior.
“He was known as the octopus because of the way he would put his hands all over women,” said prosecutor Sasha Wass. "He took advantage of his fame and popularity."
Wass also said Harris wrote a letter of confession to the father of one of his victims where he accepted that he had had a sexual relationship with the girl but did not say it occurred whilst she was under-age.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas; editing by Stephen Addison)