Friday 19 January 2018

Corrie star Bill Roache told alleged assault victim to write to him when she starts school again, court hears

William Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court
William Roache arrives at Preston Crown Court

Coronation Street star William Roache wrote a letter to a 14-year-old girl weeks after he indecently assaulted her and asked her to reply "when you start school again", a jury has heard.

Giving evidence, the complainant said Roache forced her to perform a sex act on him in the gents' toilets at Granada Studios in Manchester in the summer of 1965.

She had visited the studio with a friend to take part in a children's talent show, Preston Crown Court heard.

Speaking from the witness box, she recalled how she met Roache - who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap - in a dressing room before he later pulled her into the nearby toilets.

Weeks later she said she received a letter and signed photograph from the actor.

It read: "Dear (the alleged victim), thank you for your marvellous letter and the nice things you said in it.

"I am enclosing a photo which I hope you like.

"I am away for three weeks now but I would like a letter from you waiting for me when I get back.

"Write to me when you start school again and tell me more.

"Love Bill xx."

The photo was signed "Love to (the alleged victim)!

"William Roache (Ken Barlow)."

Prosecutor Anne Whyte asked her: "How did that make you feel?"

The woman replied: "I suppose I was flattered at the attention.

"I didn't understand some of it.

"I had not written a letter. I left a note as well as my address.

"The 'tell me more' didn't make sense. I don't know what it referred to."

The Crown say Roache "took full advantage of his stardom" to sexually abuse five young girls.

His fame and popularity were said to have silenced his "star-struck" victims for decades until the Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall scandals emerged.

Roache, 81, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies five historic counts of indecent assault and two historic counts of rape involving the complainants who were aged 16 and under. The offences are said to have occurred between 1965 and 1971.

The woman said she had travelled by bus for a singing audition at the talent show.

Following her performance she and her friend "went exploring" within the building, she said.

She said they saw the actor who played Albert Tatlock in the soap along a corridor, and then encountered Roache and Coronation Street colleague Alan Rothwell, who played David Barlow, in their dressing room.

"How do you think you appeared?" asked Miss Whyte.

The woman said: "Like two excited teenagers ... just excited to be in the company of a couple of famous actors. Flattered, I suppose, that they were actually talking to us and interested in what we were doing."

She said she could not remember much of the conversation in the dressing room but she would have told them she and her friend had visited the studios for a children's talent competition.

At one point she and Roache left the dressing room, she said, and he pulled her "roughly" by the arm in the direction of a men's toilet.

"I was taken aback. I wasn't quite sure why I was in there. I should not have been in there."

She said the next thing she remembered was him placing his hand over his private parts.

The woman said she did not appreciate what was happening.

"My main worry was that I was in the gents' toilets," she said. "I was the one in the wrong place. What was wrong was me. I was shocked and I didn't really understand what was going on, but the one thing I thoroughly understood was that I should not have been in the gents'."

She said she could not remember how they left the toilets but she said her "paramount feeling was to get out of there".

She added that she also had the impression that Roache kissed her on the lips in the toilets.

They returned to the dressing room but she did not tell her friend about the incident because she was "frightened", she said.

She told the court both the actors were then called away but Roache asked her to let him know how he could get in touch with her.

"I left my address on the dressing room table," she said.

Miss Whyte asked: "How did you feel that he had asked you for your address?"

She replied: "I think I was a little bit on auto-pilot. I was just following instructions at that point. I was just bewildered at what had happened."

She said that after receiving the letter she returned to the studios later in the year, telling the court that Roache told her to wait outside and he would pick her up in his car.

He later parked near a railway embankment in Stockport and she remembered Roache asking about her age and when she would turn 16, she said.

She added that he also asked her if she had "ever had it in the mouth".

The woman said at the time she would not have understood what he had said.

"I had no concept of oral sex at all," she said.

She said she thought that she had also been indecently assaulted in his car but she had "no actual memory" of the episode.

Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roache, then cross-examined the witness, who was alleged to have been indecently assaulted twice by the defendant.

The witness said she was not a "fan" of the soap, but added: "We all watched it because it was one of the top shows that our parents watched."

She agreed she was "up for being naughty" to the extent of "exploring" the studios after her audition with a friend did not go well as they "didn't even get to the end of the song".

But questioned by Miss Blackwell, the witness said she could not remember many details about the corridors they wandered in or how she allegedly got to be alone in the gents toilets with Roache or any detail of a conversation they may have had.

"I think it's because it's 50 years ago and a lot of things are unclear about that day, but some things are clear," she told the jury.

She said she could not remember how long the first alleged indecent assault at the studios took but agreed she found it "disgusting".

Miss Blackwell said: "You were brave enough to be naughty and know you shouldn't have been there but after this disgusting act you decided to leave your address and possibly a short note?"

"Yes," the witness replied.

And the barrister questioned why she had not told her friend afterwards.

"You would have been chattering, giggling schoolgirls, best of friends, and you said nothing, is that right?"

"I don't think I did tell her," the witness replied.

The witness was then questioned about the second alleged indecent assault.

She had been invited to Granada by Roache, but could not remember how the arrangement was made, and taken on to the set of the Rovers Return on Coronation Street.

Roache is then said to have asked her to leave the studios and arranged to pick her up in his car on the street outside.

Miss Blackwell suggested this arrangement was "odd".

"No," the witness said. "Because at that stage I thought we were having some sort of clandestine relationship, however tenuous."

The witness said she could not remember any additional details about Roache's car or the journey in it that day.

Miss Blackwell said: "Would you agree, you have some very alarming lapses in your memory about these events?"

"No, I don't agree," the witness replied. "I think it would be strange if I remembered every detail of 50 years ago. I remember the unusual things that stand out in my mind, the unique things."

Miss Blackwell continued: "The other alternative is, it's just not true?"

"It is true, I'm telling the truth," the witness said.

Miss Blackwell added: "The lapses of memory are because you are making it up?"

The witness answered: "I'm not making it up. I would have no reason to."

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