CORONATION Street star William Roache said he was looking for love rather than “gratuitous sex” amid the collapse of his first marriage, a court heard yesterday.
Roache, 81, told a jury he cheated on his wife with “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 at the time were said to have taken place between 1965 and 1971. He denies the charges.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte QC put it to Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, that he quickly became the “heart-throb” of Coronation Street and at the time he had fame, celebrity and good looks.
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 1969 when they got divorced.
He was unfaithful “intermittently” as they led “virtually separate lives”.
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”.
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.
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”.
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.”
Roache was also questioned about a letter and signed photo he sent to an alleged victim who claims he indecently assaulted her when she was 14 years old in a gents’ toilets at Granada in 1965. 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 letters.
The trial continues today.