William Roache verdict, flood defence 'delays' and David Cameron's plea to Scots

Pictures of one man are spread across most of Friday's front pages or - as the Guardian puts it - "one man, two personas".

In its coverage of William Roache's acquittal on sex charges, the paper says the jury had repeatedly been reminded to differentiate between the defendant and Ken Barlow, the character he plays in Coronation Street.

"But certain similarities between the man and his fictional alter ego emerged during the three-and-a-half week trial," the Guardian says, noting that while Barlow has "rattled through more than 20 lovers", Roache acknowledged in court that he was frequently unfaithful to his first wife.

The Daily Telegraph says the actor had to "endure his colourful personal life being aired in painful detail" in court, while the Daily Mail examines Roache's life, including his membership of the Circle of Love spiritual movement which is based on the tenet that "pure love conquers all".

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Witch-hunt?
William Roache, surrounded by his family, speaks to the media outside court

Despite the strain of the trial, Roache "didn't once flinch" as the verdicts were delivered, says the Daily Mirror's Brian Reade, describing how the actor "walked free as if he were leaving the Street set".

High-drangeas?

Hydrangeas

The Telegraph reports on a strange spate of thefts from gardens in France's northern Pas-de-Calais area. "Thieves are believed to have ripped the heads off hydrangeas which they are then smoking as a cheap alternative to cannabis," it says. A pharmacologist is quoted as saying that smoking the flowers can lead to intestinal, breathing and heart problems. However, a professor of addiction reportedly told a radio station "you'd have to smoke a hell of a lot to put your life in danger".

Meanwhile, the "close family bond" with his children - a "constant presence in the courtroom" is acknowledged by the Times.

The Daily Express and Daily Star are among those recording the relief of co-stars, past and present, while the Sun notes how Roache wore the same "lucky tie" to court each day.

Several papers, such as the Independent, suggest police and prosecutors are now "in the dock" amid claims they have presided over a "celebrity witch-hunt".

However, the Daily Mirror's opinion column argues that it's right for such cases to be put to juries.

"It's easy to criticise the authorities when a case is thrown out," it says.

The Mirror hears from one of his accusers who says she hadn't come forward immediately because she didn't think people would believe her and that the case had seen her "proved right".

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Union blues
David Cameron alongside Alex Salmond

The Times previews a speech in which David Cameron will urge everyone to persuade family and friends in Scotland to reject independence.

Love in the air?

There's a tone of dismay to a Daily Mail story about a poll suggesting "the best a woman can hope for" in terms of romance is "a man who puts the bins out, makes the bed and leaves the toilet seat down".

However, there's hope for Valentine's Day in the Express - no matter who does the cooking and regardless of budget. It says mother Lesley Cooper has drawn up a list of recipes that can feed families for £1 per person per day. They include 4p pancakes, bacon and sweetcorn pie with mash and peas for 32p, and 13p marmalade baked sponge.

Still, there's not much love in the air so far as the Times is concerned. It reports: "Unhappy couples who soldiered on during the recession have now decided that they can afford to split up, official figures suggest."

The paper reckons it's a "delicate task", noting that: "[Scottish First Minister] Alex Salmond would like little more than to portray the referendum in September as a choice between self-rule and dominion by plummy-voiced Old Etonian Conservatives."

As the Financial Times notes, Mr Cameron "admitted last month that interventions by a southern, English, Conservative prime minister might antagonise Scots and be counterproductive". But it says he was urged by senior colleagues to become more involved.

And Philip Stephens writes in the FT that to understand why Scots might vote for independence, "one has only to listen to the way English talk about the 307-year-old union". He continues: "The dominant strand of English opinion says that Scotland would drown in the attempt to go it alone. Instead of seeking separation, Scotland should count its blessings for England's unbounded generosity."

A poll in the Sun suggests a majority of Scots still prefer the union, although the number in favour of independence appears to be growing. As the paper puts it, the PM has "seven months to save the UK".

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Off the rails
Waves crash over the mangled railway line at Dawlish

As much of the UK continues to be battered by heavy rain and gales, a fresh selection of pictures of rough seas and flooded homes is reproduced in the press.

On the rails

Artists impression of a Crossrail train

The Daily Express claims victory in its "Battle for Bombardier Crusade", as the Derby trainmaker clinched the £1bn contract to produce rolling stock for London's Crossrail line. Its leader column adds: "While we can't claim all credit our support certainly nudged the government in the right direction."

And the paper has room to celebrate half a century since plans for the Channel Tunnel were announced, reliving the moment workers drank Champagne after meeting in the middle and listing Chunnel facts and figures.

Meanwhile, at the Mail, columnist Tom Utley wonders at the "bonkers" thinking that awarded him a 60+ Oyster Freedom Pass to travel in London free-of-charge, saving him £15,000 to spend on booze and fags when he's "financially better off at 60 than I've ever been before".

The Daily Telegraph claims that the Environment Agency last month shelved work on the section of coastal railway track at Dawlish that was severely damaged by the sea this week so that it could carry out a survey on the effect it would have on birdlife.

It quotes one Labour peer asking: "Are we looking after birds before humans?" The agency says it "does not recognise" the paper's description of the meeting it had with peers and Network Rail.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph's Sam Marsden heard from evacuees from the Devon resort, who "fear they may never be allowed back" into their homes.

Drawing on his impression of coastal erosion from filming Britain from Above for the BBC, Andrew Marr - writing in the Mail - says: "The brutal truth is that not every farmhouse, village street and golf course can be protected."

There's little chance of respite for a while, according to the Daily Express. It says the "worst storm for more than a quarter of a century is set to cause widespread mayhem" at the weekend. "Storm Charlie" threatens to be more intense than the violent gales that felled trees across southern England in 1987, it says.

A further casualty of the weather will be the tourist trade, reports the Times. It quotes a Devon official as saying the consequences could be "catastrophic" for the industry, while a Cornish counterpart argues that - despite no chance of direct trains to Penzance from London any time soon - it is "the impression that Cornwall is cut off" that can do most damage, despite most visitors arriving by road.

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Games begin
Seamus O'Connor of Ireland somersaults in the air during the Men's Slopestyle Qualification at the Sochi games

Several papers are still reporting problems with accommodation and facilities in Sochi, ahead of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Not cricket?

Kevin Pietersen

What the Guardian describes as the "farce" of Kevin Pietersen's enforced retirement from England's cricket squad "plunged to a new low", it says, with new national selector James Whitaker "sidestepping questions" in a "toe-curling interview". The Sun wonders whether the PM will "save KP", before hearing David Cameron tell BBC local radio: "I had better stay out of this one."

While ex-England captain Mike Atherton - in the Times - is the latest to reveal the "real reason" the South Africa-born batsman had to go, columnist Philip Collins says the puzzle over "exactly how intolerable" Pietersen was in the dressing room "misses an obvious point". International eligibility rules in sport don't work, he says, adding: "Pietersen is not English. He should never have been allowed to play for England in the first place."

Not only does the bobsleigh centre have only half a roof, reports the Sun, but "the athletes' village has run out of PILLOWS".

However, the newspaper leader columns - while acknowledging the reports of corruption, rows over personal freedom and threat of terrorism - carry a note of optimism.

The Times has no doubt the Games will be a sporting success.

"Russians will surely find a way through the waste, corruption and smothering security to revive their ancient traditions of hospitality," it says in an editorial.

The Guardian reckons London 2012 offered proof that "with luck and goodwill a Games can rise above the hype and the horror stories to become an empowering shared experience".

"Let us hope, in spite of all the many reasons why this may not happen in Sochi, that the next two weeks are memorable for the right not the wrong reasons," it adds.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Liew tells Telegraph readers that - though ice is " the thing you have to scrape off your car" and snow "makes your train late" - they should "switch on, sit back and surrender" to the thrill of the spectacle.

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