England

Coronation Street's William Roache 'attacked girl in toilet'

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Media captionMr Roache was surrounded by photographers as he entered and left the court, as Olivia Richwald reports

Coronation Street star William Roache indecently assaulted a 14-year-old girl in the men's toilet at the Granada TV studios in Manchester and then sent her a signed photo, a court has heard.

Sending the letter "was a sort of grooming as we nowadays know it," prosecutor Anne Whyte QC said.

Mr Roache, 81, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in East Lancashire in 1967.

He also denies five counts of indecent assault involving four girls.

Those alleged offences involve girls aged 16 or under in Manchester between 1965 and 1968, Preston Crown Court heard.

The jury heard the alleged victim of the indecent assault in the toilet was now aged 63. She was 14 when the actor approached her in 1965, the court heard.

That summer she visited Granada Studios in central Manchester with a friend to take part in a talent show and afterwards she saw Mr Roache in the building and recognised him, Miss Whyte said.

"She and her friend ended up in a dressing room with the defendant and other actors," the prosecutor said.

'Star-struck teenagers'

Both left the room and he led her by the arm to the men's toilet, where he allegedly made her commit a sex act on him.

"There was no conversation and they went back to the dressing room where her friend was still chatting to an actor.

Image copyright Court artist Helen Tipper
Image caption William Roache is on trial at Preston Crown Court

"Then both men left the room and she and her friend made their way out of the building.

"She had been stunned by what had occurred and went home," Miss Whyte said.

Afterwards, Mr Roache sent her a letter and a signed photograph of himself.

But this was not a "benign personal touch" by a "well-known young male actor", the court heard.

Instead it was a deliberate act, Miss Whyte said, "designed to impress a young schoolgirl and to secure her unquestioning loyalty as a fan for a sexual purpose. A sort of grooming, as we would nowadays call it".

The girl felt "flattered", even though she knew what had happened was wrong.

"This, the Crown say, demonstrates how easy it is for someone in the defendant's position to manipulate the trust and attention of star-struck teenagers," she said.

'Powerful factor'

The victim reported the matter to police last May after hearing Mr Roache had been charged with raping a 15-year-old girl.

That complainant, now in her 60s, was the first person to come forward and contacted police last March, Miss Whyte said.

"In the context of discussing other sex scandals involving the late Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile, her son had expressed disbelief about how long it had taken for victims of sexual offences to come forward.

"His mother tried to explain, and in this case she knows. She eventually told her son about what had happened many years before with the defendant."

Her son told her to contact police which she eventually did, said Miss Whyte.

Mr Roache was arrested on 1 May and, after being interviewed, was charged with two offences of rape.

The jury was told the alleged attacks took place at two of his properties in Haslingden, Lancashire, in 1967.

The publicity that followed led to other people coming forward.

'Slept with many women'

Two of the alleged victims were sisters, but there was nothing else to link any of the complainants the court heard.

Miss Whyte said the Crown argued that this should be a "powerful factor" in the jury's assessment of the evidence.

The sisters who allege they were indecently assaulted used to sit on the steps of the TV studios, the court heard.

The younger sister said on one occasion she was with a friend in the hope of getting an autograph.

Mr Roache offered them a lift home in his silver Rolls-Royce and the complainant sat in the front.

She described how she felt "frozen and petrified" as he made her commit a sex act on him.

Miss Whyte said he stopped the car afterwards, gave her half a crown (12.5p) and told her to get the bus home.

The girl said she "felt intimidated because people feel he is some kind of super actor and they think he's lovely and always 'William Roache what a good man he is', Miss Whyte told the court.

When he was arrested Mr Roache was "absolutely surprised and amazed. He appeared visibly shocked", she said.

She said he told police he had "taken the opportunity to sleep with many women but this had always been with their consent" adding "he had never sought out girls under the age of 16 because such girls did not interest him sexually".

The trial continues.

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