William Roache trial: Actor ‘haunted by Savile’

The CASE against Coronation Street’s William Roache is “nonsense”, with the trial haunted by the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile, a court heard yesterday.

William Roache (centre) arriving at Preston Crown Court yesterday with his sons James and Linus on his right and daughter Verity on his left. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA
William Roache (centre) arriving at Preston Crown Court yesterday with his sons James and Linus on his right and daughter Verity on his left. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA

Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roache, poured scorn on the idea that the actor turned from “perfect gentleman” to a sexual predator and back again.

Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, is accused of using his fame and popularity to exploit “starstruck” youngsters in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

His trial, now in its third week, has heard from five women who claim he sexually assaulted them when they were 16 or under, either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car or at properties he owned.

He denies all the charges and has told the jury at Preston Crown Court he has no knowledge of any of the women he is supposed to have assaulted.

In the defence case’s final submissions to the jury, Miss Blackwell said: “Jimmy Savile is like an elephant in the room. You can’t ignore it.

“Jimmy Savile has affected, in fact, infected this trial and investigation of these offences.

“The Jimmy Savile allegations, for example, related to when he went around hospitals or vulnerable children’s homes. They will know whether he was there, there will be records.

“One of the things in this case is there is no records.”

Roache, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault involving the complainants between the mid-1960s and early 1970s.

Ms Blackwell went through each of the accounts of the complainants to point out “contradictions and inconsistencies”.

She said the first woman to come forward who claimed she was raped was a virgin at the time but unsure whether she was 14 or 15.

Addressing the eight women and four men on the jury, Miss Blackwell said: “How many women would not remember exactly how old they were when they lost their virginity?”

She reminded the jury that the same woman said she was raped a second time by the defendant in the following months – instead of staying away from him from “hate” or “fear”.

“You would not put yourself in that situation. It is, we submit, absolutely unbelievable.”

Miss Blackwell reminded the jury of the glowing testimonies given about the defendant by his co-stars, Ann Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre Barlow, and Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt.

“You may well have had preconceptions about Mr Roache when you saw him give evidence,” Miss Blackwell said.

“Did he appear to you as a gentle, nice, lovely man?

“What the prosecution say is that for some weird reason between 1965 and 1972, for no discernible reason, Mr Roache departed from his usual character and behaviour and became a young woman-snatcher, a risk-taker, taking people into toilets.

“Then as soon as this madness is visited upon him, it passes.

“It’s nonsense, it just doesn’t happen in the real world. An expression, ladies and gentlemen: a leopard doesn’t change its spots.”

Miss Blackwell asked the jury not to “fall into the trap” of thinking there may be other women out there, in the “post-Jimmy Savile, post-Cyril Smith era”.

“There are five women,” she said. “Not 25 or 500 and none of them, nobody suggests, after 1972. Where has this risk-taking libido gone to? Well, it’s never been there.

“There’s not a shred of evidence anywhere else in Mr Roache’s life that he was this risk-taking predator.”

The trial continues.