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Coronation Street's William Roache 'used fame to exploit girls'

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image captionWilliam Roache has portrayed Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since the soap began in 1960

Coronation Street actor William Roache used his fame to exploit "starstruck" girls, Preston Crown Court has heard.

In her closing speech, prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said his "instant stardom" and resulting "adulation" had probably "massaged his sexual ego".

Ms Whyte said Mr Roache was "sticking to his script" when saying he did not sexually abuse five young girls.

Mr Roache, 81, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two rapes and four indecent assaults against five women.

The assaults are alleged to have happened between 1965 and 1971 with girls aged 16 or under.

'Looks, fame and appetite'

Ms Whyte said: "Someone is lying. Five complainants have made sexual allegations against William Roache. He is emphatic that it just did not happen.

"He either did it or he did not. He is lying or literally all of them are."

If he was telling the truth, he was the victim of a "huge, distorted and perverse witch-hunt," she said.

Ms Whyte told the jury: "One important question that you are going to frankly have to ask yourselves is who has the most to gain in lying?

"Who, of all the witnesses, is most used to rehearsing what he has to say and sticking to his script?

"You are here to judge William Roache in the 1960s when he was a young man with looks, fame and appetite," she said.

"That gave him the motivation and the opportunity to behave improperly."

The prosecutor said that if Mr Roache was telling the truth then three of the complainants "must be mad" as they have "nothing in common".

"And yet they are all saying something of a broadly similar nature and at a broadly similar point in time," she said.

Ms Whyte said the period in Mr Roache's life in which his marriage to first wife Anna Cropper was deteriorating did coincide with the dates on the indictment.

She said his admitted affairs during that time had led him to become "a sexual risk taker".

"Our case is that he simply did not stop to think whether they were technically children or not," she said.

'Lovely chap'

She said his fame "put him out of reach" and, because of who he was, anyone who he touched sexually without consent "would probably not have the guts to complain".

"Once he had got away with it once or twice, it would not discourage him from from trying again," she continued.

Referring to character evidence given by Coronation Street co-stars who knew Mr Roache from the 1970s, Ms Whyte told the jury they had heard "what a lovely chap he is".

But they had to "judge a man from a different time".

Mr Roache was hardly likely to sexually assault a teenager in front of colleagues, she added.

Miss Whyte said: "We say, judge William Roache like anyone else. That is to say, fairly. You must leave emotion absolutely out of this.

"He does not deserve the benefit of the doubt because of who he is or how old he is.

"He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt if the prosecution have not convinced you of his guilt."

Mr Roache has portrayed Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since the soap began in 1960.

He was cleared of one indecent assault charge on the judge's direction on Monday.

The trial continues.

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