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Stars line up to defend 'perfect gent' Roache

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SUPPORT: Helen Worth

SUPPORT: Helen Worth

SUPPORT: Helen Worth

CORONATION Street stars stepped up and defended William Roache (right) at his sex assault trial.

Soap stalwarts Anne Kirkbride, who plays Roache's on-screen wife Deirdre Barlow, and Helen Worth, who plays Gail McIntyre, both took to the witness box, praising the character of their co-star.

Roache (81) was the caring and kind "father figure" and "elder statesman" of the show, who looked after younger members of the cast, the jury were told.

The defendant waved and smiled from the dock as his ITV colleagues left the courtroom after giving evidence at Preston Crown Court.

Roache is accused of using his fame and popularity to exploit "starstruck" youngsters for sex in the mid to late 1960s.

His five accusers have told the jury they were assaulted by the actor either while at Granada Studios, in his Rolls Royce car or at properties he owned.

He faces two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault involving five complainants aged 16 and under between 1965 and 1971. But yesterday Anne Kirkbride (59) told the jury Roache was "always a perfect gentleman" around her.

And asked what one word she would use to describe Roache, she replied: "Lovely."

Ms Kirkbride said she had never seen anything worrying about Roache's behaviour on set with young women from when she joined the show in about 1972.

NERVOUS

Louise Blackwell QC, defending, asked the witness how she felt on joining Coronation Street.

She replied: "I was terrified for my first day. Very nervous going in. It was a completely new situation. I didn't know anybody."

Asked what she thought of Roache on meeting him, she said: "He was friendly. I remember the first time I spoke to him was outside a lift and we had a really nice chat and he offered me a cigarette.

"We shared a lot of the same interests in spiritual things. I just found him very easy to talk to."

Ms Blackwell asked her: "At that time, if you had one word to describe Mr Roache what would it be?" She replied: "Lovely."

Ms Kirkbride, went on: "He was always very helpful. Just very supportive and he made me feel comfortable and at ease in a place where I felt nervous."

Ms Blackwell asked: "Your contact with him in terms of a man and woman together, how did he behave?"

Ms Kirkbride said: "Impeccably. Perfectly. He was always a perfect gentleman."

Helen Worth (63) who plays Gail McIntyre in the soap, told the jury she joined the show in 1974, aged 23.

She said she was "extremely nervous" when joining the show "as any young actor is to this day" but she was soon made to feel welcome.

"But Bill perhaps was caring more and welcoming to me then," she added, "And has been to every new member of the cast since."

Ms Blackwell asked her how Roache behaved among the cast.

She replied: "He had been there longer than anyone else. We looked up to him. He was a father figure. An elder statesman."

The barrister asked: "During the time that you worked with him, how would you describe his character?"

Ms Worth said: "He was caring. Never anything more. Just caring."

Ms Blackwell said to her: "Did you see him in the company of young female cast members?"

"Yes, of course," she said. "I never saw anything that was untoward whatsoever in 40 years."

Fellow cast member Chris Gascoyne (45) was next to be called to the witness box.

JOY

He identified himself as the actor who plays Ken Barlow's son, Peter, after joining the show in 2000.

"It's been a joy to be with Bill," he said.

Roache denies all the charges. and has told the jury he has never met any of his alleged victims.

The court has heard that one complainant said she recalled seeing an actor, who played the character Jed Stone in the soap, near to a dressing room ahead of the alleged assault by Roache.

Kenneth Cope, who played Jed Stone in the 1960s, said he had never seen two young girls in a dressing room with Roache.

The trial continues.

hnews@herald.ie


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