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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Robert Hughes sexual abuse trial begins

Sarah Monahan and Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes was extradited from the UK to stand trial for sexual abuse when he was the star of a successful television series Hey Dad in the 1980s. He faces 11 charges including sexual assault and indecent assault on girls aged 6 to 15 during the life of the show. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Sarah Monahan told A Current Affair in 2010 that Robert Hughes had sexually abused her for seven years. Former executive producer Gary Reilly said he didn't know what was going on but did hear rumours that when another child complained about his sexual advances, she was given a chaperon.

Sarah, who now lives in the US said "I guess I was the smallest and I know I wasn't the only one. I remember at school they actually demanded that I see a psychiatrist.  In art classes, I could draw perfect penises, and they said there's something wrong with this girl drawing stuff like that at such an early age. I think I was at the point of being suicidal."

Sarah Monahan today

"They said they didn't know, but they knew, and it was always kept quiet because it was the most successful television show and people don't want to know about that" Sarah said.  The abuse began when she was 6 and continued until she was 13 when she finally had the courage to tell him to stop.  Once he realized he'd lost control, she said, he turned nasty and bombarded her with insults.

This week, Hughes is in court.  In her opening address, Prosecutor Gina O'Rourke said three of the offences were committed when the girls were sleeping over at his family home.

Defence lawyer Greg Walsh told the court his client was a victim of rumour and inuendo and reminded the jury not to be influenced by media reports.  "This case is about specific allegations which must be proven beyond reasonable doubt" he said.

Robert Hughes today

On Tuesday, a woman now in her 40s told a Sydney court she was shocked and scared when Hughes came into the bedroom of his house where she was sleeping when she was 14 or 15.  When she first met Hughes, he was "friendly and interested in our lives" but she began to feel uncomfortable when he swam naked in their family pool and began touching her.

"I woke up to Robert kneeling down on the side of the bed and he had his hand down my pants" she said.  "I could see his face really clearly....he was rubbing around my virgina, just inside."  He stopped when she pushed his hand away but before he left the room, he licked the left side of her face.

Her mother told the jury that just before both families were to go on holiday together, her daughter begged her not to and told her everything.  When her mother confronted Hughes about the allegations, he went "blank."

On Wednesday a witness who appeared by video link said that when she was seven and sleeping at his house, Hughes came into her room and placed her hand on his penis.  "He spoke to me....he told me to roll over.....and after he said good girl.....and told me to go back to sleep." On another occasion, the actor came into the bedroom and forced her to "masturbate him" before handing her a teddy bear.  She heard water running in the bathroom straight after.

Her father said "She was seven years old....she came and said words to the effect of "I don't like the games Robert plays with me.....afterwards she said "Robert put some white sticky stuff on my arm."

She eventually told her parents everything and they went to police but decided not to pursue charges because they didn't want to put their child through a trial.  They took her to a psychologist, sold the house, and moved away. But when sexual abuse accusations surfaced in the media in 2010, her mother went back to police.

One day her mother bumped into Hughes' wife Robyn Gardiner. "She asked me why (my daughter) wasn't allowed to go to their house anymore and I said words to the effect of 'Ask your husband.' She said 'Oh we'll have to get him help' and I told her to get away from me".

Defence Barrister Greg Walsh said Ms Gardiner never spoke of seeking help for Hughes.

The trial continues.