British Police Arrest High-Profile Entertainer in Sex Abuse Inquiry

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LONDON -- In the latest twist in the sexual-abuse scandal that has shaken Britain's public broadcaster, one of the country's best-known television entertainers, Rolf Harris, for whom Queen Elizabeth II once sat for a portrait, has been arrested on suspicion of unspecified sexual offenses, British news reports said Friday.

Mr. Harris, 83, was arrested on March 28, but only identified by name on Friday by The Sun newspaper. The BBC followed suit, having previously refrained from identifying him for what the broadcaster called "legal reasons." The BBC said Friday that the entertainer had not been formally charged with an offense.

He was arrested as part of Operation Yewtree, an investigation the police opened last year after hundreds of accusations of sexual abuse against Jimmy Savile, a onetime disc jockey and television personality who died in 2011 at the age of 84. Some accusations involved Mr. Savile as well as other suspects, and investigators also examined accusations of "others" acting on their own. Mr. Harris fell into that last group.

Like Mr. Savile, Mr. Harris had been known to successive generations of Britons and Australians as an affable, if quirky, national treasure, a fixture on television and entertainment shows who played on his Australian roots and his skills as an artist and musician.

Bearded, bespectacled and slightly breathless in his presentation, Mr. Harris's performances ranged from quick-fire sketches to music-making with instruments from the Australian outback like the tubular didgeridoo. He worked for many years on BBC programs but started his latest show on the commercial Channel 5 in 2012.

The Sun said more than a million people had watched Mr. Harris's most recent television appearance on Wednesday in a show called "Animal Clinic" about distressed animals.

Social media sites had been buzzing with speculation about Mr. Harris since officers searched his home in Berkshire outside London last November while he was not present. The police have arrested 12 people in Operation Yewtree, many of them associated with the entertainment business.

A police statement on March 28, two days before Mr. Harris's 83rd birthday, said: "An 82-year-old man from Berkshire was arrested by officers on Operation Yewtree on suspicion of sexual offenses.

"He has been bailed to a date in May pending further inquiries. The individual falls under the strand of the investigation we have termed 'others.'"

An Australian who moved to Britain in 1952, Mr. Harris made his name decades ago with humorous and sentimental songs, like "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport," "Jake the Peg," and "Two Little Boys," a song composed in 1902 about childhood friends who later became soldiers in the American Civil War.

In 2005 he unveiled his portrait of the queen at Buckingham Palace as she approached her 80th birthday, showing her smiling, silver-haired and dressed in a turquoise-green jacket.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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