Rolf Harris 'child-snatching' sketch emerges
THE writer and TV producer John Lloyd has said it "makes his blood run cold" to look back on a comedy sketch from 1980 that shows young children being abducted and put in a BBC van bound for a children's TV show hosted by Rolf Harris.
The disgraced Australian children's entertainer was sentenced to five years and nine months in jail last week for abusing girls as young as seven.
This week, a video clip from the satirical sketch show 'Not The Nine O'Clock News', which was written and co-produced by Lloyd, was widely shared on YouTube containing a joke about Harris's hit children's programme "Rolf on Saturday OK?".
The sketch, which runs over the credits, features Rowan Atkinson and Mel Smith snatching children from the streets and bundling them into a van adorned with the name of Harris's programme.
The footage, first broadcast in December 1980 in episode seven, series three of the BBC comedy show, was described as "revealing" by online commentators and posted on the blog of the former Daily Telegraph columnist Norman Lebrecht with the caption: "Watch, and wonder. Who knew?"
Lloyd said that he and the team had been making a "pathetically mild" joke about how they "had to drum up an audience for a terrible Saturday show" - and that it was "awful" to look back on the video in the wake of Harris' sex abuse convictions.
He told The Independent: "It is extraordinary how spooky it is, it's almost prophetic.
"It makes the blood run cold to watch it now thinking about what he had done."
Lloyd said the sketch was run under the credits in the first place because it wasn't particularly strong - the producers' way of "not bigging it up too much" - but that it was a completely different experience to watch it now.
"It's not funny with hindsight - it's absolutely grotesque," he said.
The clip is described on YouTube as having been 'banned', but Lloyd insisted it hadn't been and rejected any suggestion that he or anyone on the writing team "knew" about Harris's abusive reputation.
He said: "There's this idea that people who do satire are uncaring or cruel - but there was huge amounts of editorial discussion every week about where the line was and if we had crossed it.
"I'd never heard of anything about Harris, and even if I had it would beggar belief to do [this sketch] - the lawyers would be all over us."
Lloyd, who is also known for his work on Spitting Image, Blackadder and QI, said that BBC controllers also watched Not the Nine O'Clock News output "like hawks", and said: "If there had been any rumours at all about Harris at that higher level they would have stopped [the sketch] straight away."
Since Harris's sentencing on Friday last week, more reports have emerged of allegations about his conduct - some of which will never now be put before a jury.
It was revealed on Friday that the Crown Prosecution Service will drop charges over claims Harris browsed websites featuring girls as young as 13 because it was "no longer in the public interest" to pursue a second trial.
Today it emerged that Harris's plumber claimed he found a stash of child sex abuse images under floorboards at a home owned by the entertainer in the late 1960s and early '70s.
And at the weekend the TV presenter Vanessa Feltz and the singer Linda Nolan separately claimed that Harris had sexually assaulted them live on TV and backstage at a concert.
Harris, 84, was jailed last week after being found guilty of 12 counts of indecent assault against four victims between 1968 and 1985.