Australian Tonya Lee has waived her right to anonymity. She made her story public in May 2013 when she gave interviews to Australia’s Channel 9 and to the magazine, Women’s Day. She sold her story through her agent for $66,000. This was 12 months before the case came to court.
In 1986 when she was 14 she went on a six-week visit to the UK with a theatre group. She said that on the first day of the tour the theatre group’s director arranged for Mr Harris to meet them at Heathrow Airport and then later at a pub in south-east London for a dinner.
She alleged that in the evening Mr Harris called her over to his table, complimented her on her voice and asked her to sit on his lap. He then began to move his hand over her legs and eventually put his hand up her skirt. She then alleged that she moved away to the pub’s toilets but that Mr Harris followed her and assaulted her again. She said that following the alleged assault she lost between 9lb and 13lb after she stopped eating and would throw up during the six-week trip.
During the course of the trial it emerged that Ms Lee didn’t meet Mr Harris on the first day of her six week tour as she originally stated. The group met him six days before they left the country at the end of the tour. She admitted that her weight loss must have been due to some other reason, such as homesickness. The defence also discovered Ms Lee had been under medical supervision for anorexia before the tour, although she denied this in Court, saying the counsellor had ‘misunderstood’.
Ms Lee also admitted to telling a ‘bare-faced lie’ to Operation Yew Tree detectives about the fact that she’d already lined up an agent and interviews, but didn’t disclose it to the police.
On what basis did the jury consider Ms Lee’s claims to be credible? At the time she sold her story Ms Lee owed 10,000 Australian dollars in taxes and had further debts of around 3,000 Australian dollars. She also admitted to telling a ‘bare faced lie’ to the police.
She not only lied to the police, but she got her story massively wrong in saying that the alleged assault happened at the start of the tour.
In her media interviews she describes the pub as having table cloths. English pubs don’t usually have table cloths. The pub where the dinner was held was a very ‘traditional’ pub and so it would be surprising if there had been tablecloths..
In the unlikely event that tablecloths were used in this pub, it seems implausible that a 14 -year -old girl could sit on a man’s lap while wearing a duffle coat (as she says) and be molested in the way she described, under the tablecloth in plain view of at least eleven other people sitting in close proximity to her.
In a crowded bar, with a bunch of excited teenagers from Australia, in the company of a 40-something celebrity who was no doubt the focus of interest and attention, how could Mr Harris molest Tanya Lee in a pub without anyone noticing?
To get to the ladies toilets Mr Harris would have had to have walked from the general bar through a door clearly marked ‘Ladies’. How did Mr Harris manage to walk through (and back again) a door that was clearly marked “Ladies” without anyone in the pub noticing?
The corridor where she alleges Mr Harris assaulted her outside of the Ladies is only 33” wide. It also serves as the access corridor between the kitchen and the pub. Is it really plausible that an assault could have taken place there on a busy evening when a party was booked in for dinner?