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Roache 'used his fame to sexually abuse five young girls', court told

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Bill Roache leaves Preston Crown Court with his children Linus (left) and Verity. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Bill Roache leaves Preston Crown Court with his children Linus (left) and Verity. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Bill Roache leaves Preston Crown Court with his children Linus (left) and Verity. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Coronation Street star William Roache "took full advantage of his stardom" to sexually abuse five young girls, a jury has heard.

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

Roache (81) denies five historic counts of indecent assault and two historic counts of rape involving the complainants when they were aged between 11 or 12 and 16.

The offences are said to have occurred between 1965 and 1971, at a time when Roache had already achieved fame playing Ken Barlow in the ITV soap.

The defendant allegedly used his celebrity status to "flatter" the girls, Preston Crown Court was told.

A 14-year-old was sexually assaulted in the men's toilets of Granada Studios in Manchester after taking part in a talent show there, jurors heard.

Another victim was said to be a young autograph-hunter who Roache abused in his silver Rolls-Royce before he stopped the car and "gave her half-a-crown and told her to get the bus home".

Anne Whyte QC, opening the case for the prosecution yesterday, told the jury they were "bound to know" the defendant is a household name, but William Roache was on trial – not Ken Barlow.

SILENCE

"You may well conclude by the end of this trial that William Roache's fame and popularity provided not only the opportunity for his offending but that it is one of the predominant reasons for his victims' decades of silence," she said.

The prosecutor said the first complainant in the case contacted the police last March after being persuaded by her son.

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

The publicity that followed led to the other complainants coming forward.

The jury heard about the first alleged victim who was aged 14 in 1965 when Roache is said to have made her commit a sex act on him in the men's toilets at Granada Studio.

Afterwards, Roache sent her a letter and signed photograph of himself, which will be shown to the jury.

But this was not a "benign personal touch", said Miss Whyte. Rather, it was "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.

Another of the alleged victims was sexually abused in a ladies' toilets, the court was told, before hearing about the two most serious offences of rape.

The victim was 15 and a virgin at the time of the alleged offences in 1967 at a house in Lancashire.

Concluding her opening, Miss Whyte said: "It is the Crown's case that the defendant took full advantage of his stardom and took advantage of these complainants at a time in his life when he thought he could.

"He assumed they would remain silent, and for decades that seemed to have been a safe but knowing assumption. After all, as they would put it, who would believe them?

"Well, things change, and we will be asking you to believe them."

Roache sat in the dock listening to the opening remarks, with his children Linus, James and Verity supporting him from the public gallery.

The trial continues.

hnews@herald.ie


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