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National: Coronation Street star William Roache cleared of sexually abusing five youngsters

12:26 06 February 2014

Coronation Street actor William Roache has been cleared.
Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Coronation Street actor William Roache has been cleared. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Coronation Street star William Roache has been cleared of all charges of sexually abusing five youngsters.

Roache was found not guilty by a jury of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault following a four week trial at Preston Crown Court.

The 81-year-old actor, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, was said to have used his fame and popularity to exploit the “starstruck” girls, aged 16 and under, between the mid-60s and early 70s.

But Roache told the jury he had no knowledge of any of the women and the alleged abuse simply did not happen.

Roache said he was “astounded” and “horrified” at his arrest on suspicion of rape.

ITV announced he would not appear in the programme until legal proceedings were concluded.

The widespread publicity of the arrest led to four other women coming forward to allege they too had been victims in the same era.

Roache was arrested again last June and then charged with five counts of indecent assault.

But the world’s longest-serving soap actor - who has appeared in Coronation Street since its 1960 launch - told the jury sexual abuse was not in his “nature” and he had no interest in underage girls.

Louise Blackwell QC, defending, said the case against her client was “nonsense”, with the trial haunted by the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile.

“In the post Jimmy Savile era, once someone makes an allegation, it’s got to go to court, no sense will prevail, it has to go to court,” Miss Blackwell said.

Glowing testimonies about Roache’s “caring” and “lovely” nature were given in evidence by three of his Coronation Street co-stars including Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre.

It was not credible the jury were told that the “perfect gentleman” and “father figure” they described had been a “sexual predator”.

And the “inconsistencies and contradictions” of each complainant’s “story” was picked apart under cross-examination.

During the trial the prosecution offered no evidence on one of two counts of indecent assault, relating to one complainant, as she had “no actual memory of the episode”.

The involvement of the press was also highlighted.

The husband of one complainant, whose sister was also allegedly abused, contacted the papers before the police - which “coloured” their allegations, Miss Blackwell said.

After Roache’s initial arrest for rape was “all over the press” she asked the jury whether any of the other women who came forward later could be regarded as “truly independent.”

Ipswich’s MP has said work must continue to provide the town with alternative routes for diverted Orwell Bridge traffic in the wake of yesterday’s closure.

Ipswich was again forced to deal with the disruption caused by an Orwell Bridge closure yesterday as Storm Doris wreaked havoc across East Anglia.

Storm Doris descended on Suffolk yesterday causing disruption, damage and travel misery for thousands.

Pianos collectively worth £50,000 are being given away to schools and community groups.

Nearly 11 hours after it was closed, motorists are now able to use the Orwell Bridge.

Looking for days out, with or without children, this weekend? Here we bring you our weekly round up of days out ideas.

It’s not too late to book tickets and take in a great show this March. Suffolk’s theatres offer a wide range of performances to choose from with something for everyone including music, comedy, plays and wrestling.

Rush hour rail travellers at Ipswich, Stowmarket and Colchester stations, as well as all along the East Suffolk Line, are being frustrated by disruption caused by Storm Doris.

A man from Ipswich has been taken into police custody by officers investigating a stabbing.

UK Power Networks is working to restore power to thousands of homes across East Anglia after damage caused by today’s high winds.

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