CORONATION Street star William Roache said he was looking for love rather than "gratuitous sex" amid the collapse of his first marriage, a court has heard.
Roache, 81, told a jury he cheated on his wife in "a series of relationships" in the mid-to-late 1960s at a time when he is alleged to have committed two rapes and four indecent assaults.
The offences involving the five complainants aged 16 and under were said to have taken place on various dates between 1965 and 1971.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte QC yesterday put it to Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, that he quickly became the "heart throb" of Coronation Street.
He denied her suggestion that this caused him to believe he was "beyond sexual scrutiny".
"No, I'm sorry I was always very caring, always honest, even in the relationships I went into," Roache said. "I was not interested in gratuitous sex and certainly not with underage people."
The defendant said his marriage to actress Anna Cropper was in trouble from 1965 until they divorced in 1969.
He was unfaithful "intermittently" as they led "virtually separate lives", with him living at their Lancashire bungalow and her at their flat in Primrose Hill, London.
Roache said he began a relationship with his second wife Sara Mottram in 1970 or 1971 and they were married in 1978.
He said he was "totally faithful" to her for 39 years until her death.
Under cross-examination from Miss Whyte, Roache denied that in the 1960s he was "plainly a man willing to take sexual risks".
She asked him if he would say he was attractive to members of the opposite sex in that decade.
"That is for others to say," he replied. "But I did have fan mail which suggested that."
The rape complainant said Roache had sex without her consent on two occasions when she was aged 15 in 1967 – at his bungalow in Lancashire and at an adjoining cottage.
"You put her on a bed and had sex with her," said Miss Whyte
"No," he replied. "Definitely and categorically not."
The prosecutor said that, just like other complainants, he took advantage of the knowledge that she would not say anything.
"I have no knowledge of this girl and no knowledge of taking anyone in the house," he said.
Quizzed on claims he indecently assaulted a girl aged 14 in the gents toilets at Granada in 1965, Roache said it would have been "very unusual" for unauthorised members of the public to roam the corridors without security or a chaperone.
Miss Whyte said: "I am going to suggest to you that [the alleged victim] was in the dressing room and you manoeuvred a situation quite hurriedly. You took her by the arm and took her into the gents toilets."
Roache said: "I absolutely and categorically have to deny it."
Roache was questioned about a letter and signed photo he sent to her.
He said it was just an example of "friendly" fan mail.
Miss Whyte added: "You sent that letter and photo because you rightly suspected she had not told anybody about the sexual encounter you had with her and you hoped for more?"
"Absolutely not," Roache replied.
Questioned about the fifth complainant, Miss Whyte reminded the jury that the alleged indecent assault was witnessed and corroborated by the complainant's friend who was passenger in the back of his Rolls-Royce.
Both had been given a lift home from Granada Studios by the defendant, the Crown say.
Roache said the idea he would take underage girls in his car, where people could see him and "everyone" knew who he was, and carry out such an assault was "absolutely ridiculous".
Miss Whyte said: "You Mr Roache, were a risk taker at that time?"
"I have never been described as a risk taker," he replied.
The trial continues.