Updated: 07/01/2014 07:49 | By Agence France-Presse

Australian PM 'gutted and dismayed' at Harris verdict

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was "gutted and dismayed" Tuesday after veteran entertainer Rolf Harris was convicted on 12 counts of indecently assaulting girls, calling it a tragic case.

Australian PM 'gutted and dismayed' at Harris verdict

Veteran Australian artist and entertainer Rolf Harris leaves Southwark Crown Court in central London on June 30, 2014 - by Niklas Halle'N

Australian-born Harris, 84, was found guilty of all the charges against him after a six-week trial in London in a spectacular fall from grace.

The TV presenter, artist and musician assaulted four girls and young women aged from seven to 19 between 1968 and 1986, including his daughter Bindi's childhood best friend, the court found.

He will be sentenced on Friday and almost certainly faces jail.

"I feel gutted and dismayed but it's very important that we do everything we humanly can to protect vulnerable young people," Abbott told ABC radio of a man adored by children and adults alike.

"It's a terrible, terrible business.

"Sexual abuse is an utterly abhorrent crime ... and it's just sad and tragic that this person, who was widely admired, seems to have been a perpetrator."

Perth-born Harris was one of Australia's best-loved entertainers, who headed to London when was 22 and made his name in Britain.

He shot to fame with his wobble board and songs about kangaroos and a man called Jake who had an extra leg, ultimately painting Queen Elizabeth II's portrait on her 80th birthday.

He was made a CBE in 2006 -- one of the highest honours the queen can bestow -- and performed at a concert marking the monarch's diamond jubilee outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.

The Australian media, which has reported blow-by-blow accounts of the trial, said it was clear he had a dark side.

"Guilty: Harris abused teens for years," screamed the Sydney Daily Telegraph, while The Australian broadsheet said he left Southwark Crown Court "shattered as he walked some of his last steps as a free man".

"Harris's fall from grace will be complete when authorities move to strip him of all his royal and Australian honours following his conviction," it added in its online edition.

Labelled a "sinister pervert" by the prosecution, he is the second person to be convicted under Operation Yewtree.

The high-profile investigation was set up in 2012 after allegations that the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific sex offender.

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