THE private life of Michael Le Vell has been laid bare during his child abuse trial with revelations of his heavy drinking and adultery.
Before any evidence was heard, Manchester Crown Court was told the man in the dock before them was not Coronation Street's genial car mechanic Kevin Webster.
The 48-year-old soap actor later himself agreed with the prosecutor that was not the case. And when he left the witness box the eight women and four men on the jury bench were too under no illusions he was not the character he plays.
Appearing under his real name of Michael Robert Turner, the Crown suggested to him that far from being “Coronation Street Kevin” he was in fact a “troubled man” who had raped and sexually assaulted a young girl.
Le Vell responded that it was true he was an alcoholic and a serial philanderer, who even cheated on his wife while she was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.
But what he was not was a child abuser, the court heard.
Born in Newton Heath, Manchester, he was one of six siblings in a working class family. Three of his sisters — one has died — and his brother sat in the public gallery during the trial to give their support.
His mother died from a brain tumour when he was 15 and his father from lung cancer when he was 22.
Le Vell said he became involved in acting aged 12 after playing a part in a school production of Kes — earlier made famous by the Ken Loach film.
In the early days of his career he also worked in a men's boutique and as a plasterer's labourer.
He got his first role on the cobbles of Weatherfield at the age of 15 and later the part of Kevin Webster which he has played for 30 years.
After he joined the ITV1 soap in 1983, he quickly endeared himself to fans who have followed the trials and tribulations of Kevin, from being Brian Tilsley's apprentice mechanic through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor, and fathering two girls, Rosie and Sophie.
With irregular working shift patterns, many free days and nights and plenty of spare cash, Le Vell confessed he would hit the pub throughout his career and his 25-year marriage to actress Janette Beverley.
Le Vell explained: “I have a working class mentality. I'm a bloke.
“After work I want to wind down for a hour or two.
“I know it sounds chauvinistic but that is how I was brought up.”
It was not the odd pint or two before tea, though, but seven or eight pints a session, he said.
He recognised he had a drink problem and had twice attended Alcoholics Anonymous but concluded: “It's not worked out for me.
“Both lasted two weeks, each attempt,” he said.
“I think the last time was about three years ago... the other time was three years prior to that.”
He also had difficulty in staying faithful in his marriage and said his reference to a secret he could not be forgiven for was to a number of one night stands, rather than the sexual offences he was accused of and which he denied.
Father-of-two Le Vell told his barrister: “I had several one-night stands throughout our marriage through difficult times.
“When you go home with that guilt and you have got to pretend you have done nothing wrong on a weekend away, it eats away at you a little bit.
“That was the little secret. One-night stands.”
He also confessed to having an affair while his wife was being treated for cancer and then walking out of the family home. Those events uncannily mirrored a Corrie storyline in which he had an affair with a character called Molly Dobbs while his on-screen wife Sally Webster developed breast cancer. Ahead of his trial, there have been several tabloid newspaper reports saying Le Vell, from Hale, Cheshire, is in an on-off relationship with a 31-year-old Chilean teaching assistant named Blanca Fouche.
Le Vell conceded he was “weak” in “certain aspects” and had problems with the “demon drink”, but throughout he maintained that did not mean he was a troubled man who had committed a string of child sex offences.
By Kim Pilling