William Roache to make Coronation Street return in summer

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image captionFollowing his acquittal, William Roache spoke of his desire to return to work

Coronation Street actor William Roache will make his return as Ken Barlow in the summer, the BBC understands.

The 81-year-old actor has not featured in the show since his arrest over allegations of rape and indecent assault last year.

Speaking after he was cleared of all charges on Thursday, he said: "I need to get back to work."

In a statement after his acquittal, ITV said: "We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work."

Since his absence, the programme has moved to a new set alongside Salford's MediaCityUK.

The BBC understands that filming for transmission in April is underway with storylines planned until July.

Since May, Mr Roache's character, Ken Barlow, has been said to be away visiting his grandson Adam in Canada.

'Pint waiting for you'

On Thursday, a jury at Preston Crown Court recorded not guilty verdicts over two allegations of rape and four of indecent assault against the Wilmslow-based star.

Five women had claimed he assaulted them when they were aged 16 or under between 1965 and 1971.

image copyrightPA
image captionWilliam Roache has been in the soap since it started in 1960

Several cast members were called to give evidence in the case, with Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre, Chris Gascoyne, who plays his son Peter and Helen Worth, who plays neighbour Gail McIntyre, all appearing as character witnesses.

Following the trial, other stars of the soap opera expressed their joy at the verdicts.

Michael Le Vell, who plays Kevin Webster, said he was "delighted" for Mr Roache, while Kate Ford, who plays his on-screen stepdaughter Tracy Barlow, simply tweeted "Yay!".

Beverley Callard, who plays barmaid Liz McDonald, wrote on Twitter: "Ken, there's a pint waiting for you in The Rovers. Love ya."

Mr Roache's acquittal sparked a media debate about whether the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should have brought the case against him.

But speaking on his LBC phone-in, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "I understand why people are saying 'why on earth has this case been brought?'... but the CPS have got a really really difficult job. Just imagine if they were not taking cases forward where really serious allegations were made."

Mr Roache has been in the show since its first episode in 1960 and is the longest-running character in any television soap opera.

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