Coronation Street star William Roache denies rape

William Roache returning home William Roache has appeared in Coronation Street since its first episode in 1960

Coronation Street star William Roache has "strenuously" denied raping a 15-year-old girl in the 1960s.

Mr Roache, 81, is accused of two counts of rape in Haslingden, Lancashire, between April and July 1967.

The actor, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, said in a statement through his lawyers: "I am astounded and deeply horrified by the extraordinary events of the last 24 hours."

He is due to appear before Preston magistrates on 14 May.

'Preserve innocence'

Mr Roache was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on Wednesday.

He said: "I strenuously deny the allegations and will now focus my full attention on fighting to preserve my innocence in the challenging times ahead.

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those people who have offered me their support and good wishes at this difficult time."

He was charged by Lancashire Police following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who said it has been reviewing evidence since 1 March.

Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, Nazir Afzal said: "Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967."

An ITV spokesman said the actor would not be appearing in Coronation Street until legal proceedings were concluded.

Mr Roache has an award from Guinness World Records for being the world's longest-serving soap actor, having appeared in Coronation Street since its first episode in 1960.

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