He was once as well-known in Australia as the prime minister of the day - the star of an iconic sitcom broadcast into millions of homes each week.
But Robert Hughes, 65, is now facing the prospect of years in jail after being found guilty of sexually and indecently assaulting young girls and deliberately exposing himself to them.
On Monday, after deliberating for 11 hours in the District Court, a jury unanimously found the actor guilty of nine charges - two counts of sexual assault and seven counts of indecent assault.
Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes at The Downing Centre District Court in Sydney. Photo: Janie Barrett
The jury remains undecided on two counts of committing an indecent act.
The 65-year-old sat shaking his head and crying in the dock as the jury declared its verdict. He appeared to be saying ‘‘no, no, no’’ over and over. He then closed his eyes in anguish. Just as the jury left, he sprang to his feet, leaned out of the dock and shouted, ‘‘I am innocent!’’ The jury agreed that between 1983 and 1991, the actor molested three girls aged between six or seven and 15. The remaining charges relate to two other victims.
The trial heard that in the case of two girls, Hughes came into the rooms where they were sleeping and sexually assaulted them as they lay terrified in bed. One recalled Hughes telling her ‘‘good girl ... here’s your teddy’’, before leaving the room. The other girl said the actor licked her face before departing.
Another alleged victim recalled a trip to Manly in which Mr Hughes allegedly forced her to swim through his legs while he exposed himself, and then trapped her by closing his legs, preventing her from resurfacing.
The fourth victim was aged 15 when she was indecently assaulted by Hughes, who also attempted to maintain a relationship with her, sending her long-stemmed roses on her 16th birthday and telling her ‘‘I want you to find a place for us to go so we can have sex because I’m too old to be doing it in the bush’’.
Then came the woman who worked with Mr Hughes on Hey Dad! , who said that he exposed his penis to her behind the set of the sitcom and then groped her in his dressing room. The jury remains undecided on this charge.
The trial heard from multiple witnesses that Hughes’ regularly and repeatedly exposed himself to young women.
A number of members of the TV show’s wardrobe staff spoke of the actor’s habit of napping naked in his dressing room, having instructed staff to come in and wake him up.
The jury rejected Hughes’ claim that many of the allegations against him were the result of rampant rumours allegedly spread through a north shore private school that some of the complainants attended.
It did not accept Hughes’ denials, which he made during an extended passage of testimony and cross examination, and which were in some cases corroborated by his de facto partner, Robyn Gardiner, and his daughter, Jessica Hughes.
In almost every case the retired actor also denied the circumstances surrounding the alleged incidents.
After the jury had left to consider the final two charges, Ms Gardiner walked over to the dock and clasped his hands. The couple spoke quietly for some minutes, each shedding tears before Ms Gardiner walked from the court and left the building via the rear exit.