Rolf Harris trial: NI woman's 'relief' after entertainer convicted

Letitia Fitzpatrick said she was a victim of the TV star in 1991

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A Northern Ireland woman who gave a character reference at the trial of Rolf Harris has spoken of her relief after he was found guilty of indecent assault.

Letitia Fitzpatrick said she was a victim of the TV star's abusive behaviour in 1991, in west Belfast.

Ms Fitzpatrick was not one of the victims connected to 84-year-old Harris' criminal trial.

However, she gave the court a statement about an incident involving Harris.

Harris was found guilty of 12 attacks on four girls between 1968 and 1986.

Ms Fitzpatrick said she interviewed Harris in June 1991. He had been taking part in an art class with local children in a leisure centre.

She was there in her role as a reporter for BBC NI.

The alleged assault happened as she was chatting off-camera to the veteran entertainer.

'Shocked'

She said: "As I said goodbye, he grabbed my face in his hands and he pulled my face towards him and he forced his tongue into my mouth.

"I was really shocked. He pulled away, walked away, and it all happened in a matter of seconds. I was too shocked to speak.

Rolf Harris arrives at court on 30 June 2014 Rolf Harris will be sentenced on Friday

"There was no flirtatious talk from him. I had talked about my children and asked him if he had a family.

"We had just been talking pleasantly and as soon as he had done that, he just walked away and turned his back on me.

"I didn't mention it to the cameraman, and I didn't mention it to anybody in the BBC at the time."

Ms Fitzpatrick said she unaware, at that time, that she had been the victim of a crime.

"I thought he was perverted, that it was disgusting. But I didn't think of it in terms of a criminal, sexual assault.

"That might seem naive but I just thought it was something horrible, like the sort of thing that does happen to women occasionally but not something you would bring to court," she added.

'Predatory, opportunistic behaviour'

"I did tell my husband and I told my sister but I didn't tell anyone in the BBC because I didn't feel it was anything to do with them.

"It was such an unpleasant experience that I just wanted to forget about it and move on and not really think about it again."

After Harris was charged, Ms Fitzpatrick decided to make a statement about the incident following the trial of broadcaster Stuart Hall, who pleaded guilty to 13 counts of indecent assault in 2013.

She said: "When he pleaded guilty, the police said, at the time, that there were so many strikingly similar accounts of predatory, opportunistic behaviour by witnesses all over the country, who couldn't possibly have met each other, that they had built up a case against him (Hall).

"I went on the web to see if what happened to me was an actual assault and it is.

"So in order to help anybody who might be bringing charges against Rolf Harris, I felt I should make a statement."

Harris is due to be sentenced on Friday. The judge at Southwark Crown Court, in London, said a custodial term was "uppermost in the court's mind".

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