Thursday 19 April 2018

Corrie star Bill Roache: 'I cheated on my wife but I'm not a paedophile'

Coronation Street star William Roache admitted to a jury today that he cheated on his first wife in the 1960s in "a series of relationships" but he was not a paedophile.

Roache, 81, entered the witness box at Preston Crown Court to give evidence in his denial of two rapes and four indecent assaults, involving five complainants aged 16 and under.

During the period of the alleged offences between 1965 and 1971, he lived with actress wife Anna Cropper between a bungalow in Lancashire and a flat in London.

One of the alleged victims says Roache raped her at the bungalow in 1967 and then a second time at an adjoining cottage later the same year.

The defendant was asked about the end of his first marriage, which he said was in trouble from 1965 until 1969 when the couple got divorced.

"Were you faithful to Anna Cropper during that time?" asked his barrister Louise Blackwell QC.

"No, I was not, I'm sorry to say," Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, replied.

He was then asked how often he had been unfaithful.

"Intermittently," he replied. "There was a period in my marriage which was not as fulfilling as it should have been and I did have a series of relationships with people. I was looking for relationships."

Roache said he began a relationship with his second wife Sara Mottram in 1970 or 1971 and they were married in 1978.

Miss Blackwell asked if, "from the time of meeting" his second wife, he was faithful to her.

"Totally faithful. For 39 years until her death, I was totally and absolutely faithful."

Soon after he went into the witness box, Miss Blackwell asked Roache: "Have you committed any of the offences with which you have been charged?"

"No, I have not," Roache said.

Miss Blackwell continued: "Do you have any memory of being in the company of any of the people that have made the allegations against you?"

"No, not one of them," Roache replied.

"Do you know any of them in any way?" Miss Blackwell said.

"No," the defendant replied.

"Or of them in any way?" Miss Blackwell continued.

"No," he said.

His barrister went through each of the six counts he faces and which Roache firmly denied ever took place.

"Did you ever take any young woman or girl into the bedroom and do as described, push her onto the bed and rape her?" asked Miss Blackwell.

"Absolutely not," Roache replied.

Asked if he had committed the second rape, he replied: "Absolutely not. Totally against my nature to harm anyone in any way whatsoever."

Roache is also accused of indecently assaulting a 14-year-old in the gent's toilets at Granada Studios in Manchester where Coronation Street was filmed, a 16-year-old in the men's toilets, one young girl in a dressing room and another in his Rolls-Royce on a lift home from the studios.

He said no one apart from those working at Granada would be allowed inside the studio while filming.

Miss Blackwell asked: "Did you ever take anybody into the studio?"

Roache replied: "It was an extremely difficult and dangerous thing to do. Any noise or cough and a recording could be gone.

"Occasionally very close family, my children. You had to get permission. You had to have a reason."

He said the same applied to his dressing room.

"I didn't want anybody in the dressing room," he said. "I needed to concentrate totally on lines and focus on what I needed to do."

He added that the surrounding corridors were "busy".

"There was always activity going on," he said.

Roache said members of the public were not simply allowed in via actors because of security at Granada.

"It was so much going on, so many big productions happened, including ours, that security was very strict and people were not allowed in," Roache said.

Miss Blackwell asked: "Did you ever take a girl into the toilets as described and commit an indecent assault on her?"

Roache replied: "No, definitely not. Those toilets were in constant use, constant use."

Miss Blackwell asked: "When you were leaving the studio, do you remember specifically giving autographs yourself and inviting one of those people into your car?"

Roache replied: "I remember giving autographs, that was a regular feature. But no, I never gave anyone a lift in my car, other than people I knew."

Roache was asked about the letter and signed photograph he sent to one of the complainants in June 1965 - shortly after the woman said he sexually assaulted her aged 14 after she competed in a talent show at Granada Studios.

He said it was "absolutely normal" that he sent her a photograph and wrote: "Love to (the alleged victim), William Roache (Ken Barlow).

The letter started off by saying "Thank you for your marvellous letter".

Roache told the jury: "That is the sort of thing I would do if they had written a nice letter."

The letter went on to state he was away for three weeks but would like a letter "waiting for me when I get back".

It added that he wanted her to "tell me more" when she returned to school.

Roache explained: "I used to like to personalise letters and obviously she had referred to something she had done at school here."

Miss Blackwell asked: "Did you write that letter with the intention of having personal face-to-face contact with her?"

"No, absolutely not," he replied.

He said that around that time he would receive between 15 and 20 fan letters a week from ages "nought to 80".

"I would always put personal comments in," he said. "If they made comments about something, I would refer to that to show I had read it."

He said he would always try to reply to fans to write back for "the ego thing" of getting more letters than his colleagues.

Miss Blackwell asked him: "Did you then have an interest in girls under the age of 16?"

Roache said: "No, absolutely not."

The barrister continued: "Have you ever had a sexual interest in girls under the age of 16?"

The actor replied: "No, I have not."

Roache said he had no recollection of a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by him in the gents toilets at Granada.

Miss Blackwell asked: "Did you ever go into a toilet on the studio floor, or anywhere else, with (the alleged victim) and indecently assault her?"

"No, I did not," he said. "It is not in my nature to do that sort of thing and those toilets were in very frequent use."

He told the jury he had owned two Rolls-Royces - one he bought in 1970 and sold in 1974 and a gold Silver Shadow model between 1986 and 1988.

Roache was then asked about his arrest by police at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on May 1 last year on suspicion of rape.

He said he had only got back from New Zealand three days earlier after a long flight and was jet-lagged.

"I could not believe it, I was absolutely horrified," he told the jury.

Roache asked the officers if he could take a shower but was told it was best if they left as soon as they could.

Miss Blackwell then asked: "I just want to ask you about beliefs and belief systems."

Roache said: "I loosely call myself Church of England, but although I have my knowing, it's a greater understanding of spiritual matters but I don't belong to any cult, philosophy or religion.

"Yes, I believe there's an absolute deity, a total God."

Roache, asked about his beliefs on reincarnation, continued: "I realise all my life I have always been curious as to what we are and why we are here. I have always been a seeker for the truth.

"Trying to find the truth when you are moving in the metaphysical is not easy.

"I have a knowing, a knowing voice I know to be correct by which I live."

Anne Whyte QC, prosecuting, began her cross-examination with questions about Roache's sexual history.

"It appears from the evidence you gave this morning that your marriage vows to Miss Cropper did not hold you back sexually from 1965?" she said.

Roache replied: "The marriage was not as fulfilling as it had been and yes I was having other sexual partners."

But Miss Whyte put it to Roache, despite this he was claiming it was "totally against" his "nature" to upset or hurt anyone.

"Which is absolutely true...mature and willing partners," Roache replied.

"We were drifting apart and living virtually separate lives, myself in Manchester and her in London, the marriage itself was disintegrating," he said.

Miss Whyte asked if he was "serially" unfaithful to his wife.

"I would not use the word serially, but it was frequently," Roache replied.

Miss Whyte continued: "I'm asking you to explain to the jury how frequently you were unfaithful to your wife from the period approximately 1965 to 1971, was it repeatedly or rarely?"

"I would say, it would be towards rarely or infrequently," Roache said.

"Is that true Mr Roache?" Miss Whyte replied.

Roache replied: "Is that true - most certainly it is."

Miss Whyte said Roache quickly became the "heart throb" of Coronation Street and in the mid-60s he had fame, celebrity and good looks.

She suggested this caused him to think he was "beyond sexual scrutiny".

"I don't understand the question," Roache replied.

"No, I'm sorry I was always very caring, always honest, even in the relationships I went into.

"I was not interested in gratuitous sex and certainly not with underage people."

Roache continued: "I have always been very honest in my life. In various interviews I have always said I did have other relationships for which I was very remorseful.

"Once my relationship with Sara started (second wife) I was always totally faithful, there was no question of being out of control."

Miss Whyte asked the defendant: "In the 1960s you were plainly a man willing to take sexual risks?"

"No, I was having various relationships," Roache replied.

Miss Whyte said as a married man, a famous man, with two children and an actress wife he would not have wanted any of his "sexual partners" to tell his wife - or the press of his infidelity.

"The relationship was disintegrating and she was not without partners herself," Roache said.

Miss Whyte continued: "You would not have wanted any of your sexual partners to have revealed the fact of your infidelity to the public or press?"

"I would not have been too concerned," Roache replied.

"Really?" the prosecutor said.

"Yes really," Roache said.

Miss Whyte pressed him on whether he wanted details of his affairs leaking out.

"I am going to suggest to you that is a dishonest reply," she said.

Roache said: "I was not over-concerned. I was leading a life where my relationship was not as fulfilling as it could have been.

"I have always tried to live a life that is open and honest."

She put it to the defendant that it was not his case that the alleged victims were older than they were in reality.

"Well, I don't know them so how can I suggest anything?" he answered. "I have no knowledge of them. I cannot make any comment."

Roache agreed with the barrister that he did not believe that the social and sexual culture of the 1960s made such sexual behaviour against young girls "acceptable".

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."

He agreed that young teenage fans would have been excited about the prospect of meeting a celebrity such as himself.

Miss Whyte said: "It must be evident some effectively adored you and they loved you?"

Roache said: "That may be so. There were some who made statements like that."

Miss Whyte continued: "I am going to suggest that you would have to be superhuman not to have been flattered."

He replied: "It is something we (the actors) were accustomed to but it didn't have any meaning beyond that."

Miss Whyte said the court had been told at some stage that girls would travel on the bus to see where he lived in Lancashire "because you were such a heart-throb".

"I heard that," he said. "I don't know about the bus. But there were a lot of people who came to the door."

Turning to the woman who claimed she was indecently assaulted aged 14 in the ladies toilets at Granada, Miss Whyte said: "As I understand your evidence, there is absolutely no way you would find yourself in a lavatory with a teenager assisting you to masturbate you?"

"Absolutely not," he said.

"Her name means nothing to you?"

"Nothing whatsoever," said Roache.

"Never been of special interest to you?" asked Miss White.

Roache said: "No."

He said it would have been "very unusual" for unauthorised members of the public to roam the corridors without security or a chaperone being present.

And he said he would have remembered if she and her young friend had been in his dressing room.

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. I have no interest at all in sexual immaturity."

He asked the judge if he could be permitted to say something about his sexuality but Mr Justice Holroyde said he should address the questions.

He was then shown a photograph of the alleged victim as she was at the time.

Roache described her as a teenager but said: "I'm not very good at guessing ages."

Miss Whyte said: "You saw it as a sexual opportunity."

Roache replied: "This is why I wanted a little talk about my attitudes to women and sex. Young girls who may present themselves in a sexual manner would not have interested me.

"I was not looking for gratuitous sex. I was not interested in under-age sex. I was interested in relationships with older, co-operative women.

"As a child...she is a child. I have a daughter of my own."

Miss Whyte put it to him that he "took a liberty" and got the complainant to perform a sex act on him.

Roache said emphatically: "Absolutely and totally and completely untrue."

Miss Whyte suggested he was not interested in whether his sexual desires were being reciprocated at the time.

"It was relationships I was looking for," he said.

The barrister said: "You hurried her in and you hurried her out. You did not want her seen on the corridor too long, did you?"

"Absolutely not," he said.

Miss Whyte went on: "After she did not complain or object in any way, she passed a litmus test and you thought it might be a good idea to arrange to see her again. Do you accept any of that suggestion?"

"None whatsoever," he said.

Roache was then questioned about a letter and signed photo he sent to her.

Miss Whyte asked why a married man in his 30s was encouraging a schoolgirl to write to him.

Roache said it was just an example of "friendly" fan mail which he encouraged as there was rivalry amongst the cast as to who got the most fan mail.

Miss Whyte asked him again, why, as a married man and famous actor, he is writing a letter to a schoolgirl telling her he would be away for three weeks?

Roache replied: "Its got nothing to do with a famous actor, it's a friendly letter. I just put something in to make it personal and friendly."

"It's letting her know when you are going to be back and able to see her?" Miss Whyte said.

"No," Roache replied.

Miss Whyte suggested the letter was to set up future contact between the two - but the defendant said it was merely standard fan mail fare.

Miss Whyte continued: "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.

Miss Whyte asked the defendant about the second alleged victim and suggested he again acted in an "opportunistic and predatory" way by indecently assaulting her in toilets at Granada Studios.

The second victim told the jury she had spoken of the assault several times and told her second husband a number of years ago.

Miss Whyte suggested this disclosure was well before the revelations about Jimmy Savile and what was described in court as the "culture of blaming celebrities".

Roache denied the suggestion that he effectively led the rape complainant down a corridor of his bungalow and to a bedroom with "no words or intimacy or foreplay".

"You put her on a bed and had sex with her," said Miss Whyte

"No," he replied. "Definitely and categorically not."

Miss Whyte continued: "You were not bothering to try and see if she was consenting."

The actor said: "It did not happen. How could I ask anything?"

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.

When it was put to him that he had taken advantage of his fame, Roache said: "I have never felt I was particularly famous. It never bothered me at all.

"I feel like a normal person. I am recognised where I go and it makes people happy."

Miss Whyte said: "I am going to suggest that you took what you needed and wanted without any consent at all."

Roache replied: "That is not in my nature at all. I really don't want anyone to be upset. I would never have forced myself on anybody and nor would I need to."

He denied he was "emboldened" that his alleged victim had not told anyone and that he raped her again on a second occasion.

The prosecutor put it to him that he remained fully dressed throughout all of the sexual offences he had committed so that he could "extricate himself" more easily.

"I don't think like that," he said.

Asking about the complainant who said he sexually assaulted her in his dressing room, Miss Whyte put it to Roache that by this time he knew that if he made a young person feel special enough, she would accept anything he did without complaint.

Roache said: "I don't think like that at all. I have never thought I was special. I had no grandiose ideas about myself."

He denied fondling the girl in the dressing room.

"I get very upset if anyone is embarrassed," he said. "I always put people at their ease. I have never done anything like that."

Miss Whyte said: "We are talking about the 1960s?"

"I have always been the same," said Roache.

"I was not doing what I wanted, even with mature women.

"I have no interest in people under age and I have no interest in imposing myself on people."

Miss Whyte reminded the jury that the final alleged indecent assault was witnessed and corroborated by the complainant's friend, a passenger in the back of his Rolls Royce.

"But of course, if you are telling us the truth, she's either very mistaken or dishonest?" Miss Whyte said.

"Absolutely yes," Roache replied.

Miss Whyte said the alleged incident, where Roache is said to have given the girls a lift then took the complainant's hand to perform a sex act on him while driving his Rolls Royce showed he "just could not help taking what he could".

Roache replied 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 while driving was "absolutely ridiculous".

Miss Whyte continued: "You Mr Roache, was a risk taker at that time?"

"I have never been described as a risk taker," he replied.

The prosecutor continued: "No one is suggesting violence or force or aggression but merely an unrestricted and active desire on your part to extract sexual favours from these girls?"

"No it did not happen, definitely not," Roache replied.

"Because you presumed, for decades, such behaviour would just not get you into trouble?" Miss Whyte said.

"No, I made no such assumption," the defendant said.

Miss Whyte said: "If it's right these women reported these things to other people at various stages over the years and you are right, none of this happened, they must have made it up some time ago?"

"They must have made it up at some point," Roache replied.

Miss Whyte then referred to a TV interview in New Zealand about child sex revelations and celebrities where Roache said some people involved in the music industry "did not ask for birth certificates".

"Were you riding so high on what you thought was your sexual popularity you never thought to ask for birth certificates?" Miss Whyte said.

Roache replied: "I never thought about my sexual popularity, I was certainly not riding high on it. I have no great delusions about myself."

"Mr Roache, you took what you could, when you could, didn't you?" Miss Whyte said.

"No I did not," he replied.

Concluding his evidence, Miss Blackwell, defending asked Roache if he had ever been in trouble with the police before.

"No," Roache replied.

Following the completion of his evidence the trial was adjourned to resume tomorrow morning with cast members of Coronation Street to be called as character witnesses for Roache.

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