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.
Harris, 83, was arrested March 28, but only identified Friday by The Sun newspaper. The BBC followed suit. 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 were raised against Jimmy Savile, a onetime disc jockey and television personality who died in 2011 at 84. Some accusations involved Savile and other suspects, and investigators also examined accusations of “others” acting on their own. Harris fell into that last group.
Harris, like Savile, had been known to successive generations of Britons and Australians as an affable, if quirky, national treasure, a fixture on TV and entertainment shows who played on his Australian roots and his skills as an artist and musician.
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Bearded, bespectacled and slightly breathless in his presentation, Harris is known for performances ranging from quick-fire sketches to music with instruments from the Australian outback, such as the tubelike 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 1 million people had watched Harris’ most recent television appearance Wednesday in a show called “Animal Clinic” about distressed animals.
An Australian who moved to Britain in 1952, Harris made his name decades ago with songs such as “Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport.”
He unveiled his portrait of the queen at Buckingham Palace in 2005 as she approached her 80th birthday.