independent

Friday 25 April 2014

Savile spectre haunts 'Corrie' star's rape trial, court told

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court. PA
Coronation Street actor Bill Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court. PA

The case against 'Coronation Street's William Roache is "nonsense", with the trial haunted by the "spectre" of Jimmy Savile, a court was told.

Louise Blackwell, defending, poured scorn on the idea that the actor turned from "perfect gentleman" to a sexual predator and back again.

Mr Roache (81), who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, is accused of using his fame and popularity to exploit "starstruck" youngsters in the late 1960s and early '70s.

His trial, now in its third week, has heard from five women who claim he sexually assaulted them when they were 16 or under, either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car or at properties he owned between 1967 and 1972.

He denies all the charges and has told the jury at Preston Crown Court he has no knowledge of any of the women he is supposed to have assaulted.

In the defence case's final submissions to the jury, Ms Blackwell said: "Jimmy Savile is like an elephant in the room. You can't ignore it.

"Jimmy Savile has affected, in fact, infected this trial and investigation of these offences."

Mr Roache, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault.

Ms Blackwell went through each of the accounts of the complainants to point out "contradictions and inconsistencies".

She said the first woman to come forward who claimed she was raped was unsure how old she was, 14 or 15 at the time.

Why, she asked the jury, had she not mentioned the alleged attack in 1967 to anyone until 2013?

"You never breathed a word, even to your best friend at school?" Ms Blackwell said to the jury.

She said the complainant was a virgin at the time and the defendant a famous actor.

Ms Blackwell added: "How many women would not remember exactly how old they were when they lost their virginity? We submit to you that's the sort of thing that happens in a young woman's life that she has real clarity about. It's not just the first experience of sex, but it was horrid and you were raped."

Ms Blackwell reminded the jury of the glowing testimonies given about the defendant by his co-stars.

And she asked the jury not to "fall into the trap" of thinking there may be other women out there, in the "post-Jimmy Savile, post-Cyril Smith era".

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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