UK & World News
William Roache: Corrie Star Found Not Guilty
Coronation Street star William Roache has been found not guilty of two counts of rape and four indecent assaults.
The 81-year-old, who plays Ken Barlow on the ITV soap, always maintained he was innocent and denied the charges.
"In these situations there are no winners, and I think we should all be much kinder to ourselves," said the actor, speaking for the first time after being cleared of the allegations.
He refused to take any questions from waiting reporters, but thanked family members and his supporters, before adding: "I'd like to get back to work."
Roache did not respond when asked if the trial had been "a witch-hunt".
It took a jury just under six hours to reach unanimous verdicts on all the counts after being sent out to deliberate on Wednesday afternoon.
Roache did not react as the verdicts were read out, but his children - sons Linus, James and daughter Verity - were overcome with emotion as their father was led out the dock.
One of the celebrity's minders leapt to his feet and shouted "yes" and clapped before he was told to be quiet by the judge.
During a four-week trial at Preston Crown Court, all of the women, most of them now in their 60s, told jurors they were sexually abused by the defendant either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car or at properties he owned.
But Roache said he had no knowledge of any of the women and told jurors the abuse - which was alleged to have taken place between the mid-60s and early 70s when the complainants were aged 12 to 16 - simply did not happen.
The actor's barrister, Louise Blackwell QC, argued throughout the trial that her client was not a sexual risk-taker and was not interested in underage girls.
She said the case against him was "nonsense", with the trial haunted by the "spectre" of Jimmy Savile.
When Roache gave evidence from the witness box himself, he insisted he had never met the women who had come forward with complaints against him - and that he did not even recognise them.
He said he was "astounded" and "horrified" at his arrest on suspicion of rape at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on May 1 last year.
The world's longest-serving soap actor - who has appeared in Coronation Street since its 1960 launch - said it was a complete shock to him, that he broke out in a sweat and could not take it all in.
Four more women came forward and alleged they too had been victims.
ITV said at the time Roache would not appear in the long-running soap until legal proceedings concluded.
Upon learning the verdict, the broadcaster said in a statement: "We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work."
Some of his Coronation Street co-stars including Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre, appeared as witnesses for the actor during the trial.
She said he always behaved impeccably in the company of young women, while Chris Gascoyne, who plays Roache's fictional son Peter Barlow in the soap, described him as "kind, warm and open".
Helen Worth, who plays Gail McIntyre, said she "never saw anything that was untoward whatsoever in 40 years".
Friends and colleagues of Roache reacted online to the conclusion of the trial.
Vicky Entwistle, who plays Janice Battersby, said she was "elated to hear the wonderful news", while Kate Ford, who has played Roache's on-screen daughter for several years, simply wrote: "Yay!"
Lancashire Constabulary said it had worked closely with the Crown Prosecution Service to ensure the evidence was given "careful scrutiny" before Roache was charged.
The force said it respected the verdicts reached by the jury at Preston Crown Court, but said it would not be deterred from future investigations "of this nature, no matter how historic".
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