CORONATION Street star William Roache said there were “no winners” after he was cleared of historic sex offences against five women.
Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, was found not guilty by a jury of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault following a four week trial at Preston Crown Court.
Speaking on the steps of the court, he said: “I have just got one thing to say, in these situations there are no winners and I think we should all be much kinder to ourselves. Now if you excuse me I would like to get back to work.”
William Roache’s celebrity status played a key part in his defence - despite the jury being told to reject any notion of his Ken Barlow role.
Jurors were told the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile haunted the case - it being suggested Roache was on trial partly because of his fame.
Criticism of police and prosecutors over Savile’s impunity despite years of suspicions meant accusations against others had to end in a trial, it was suggested.
“In the post Jimmy Savile era, once someone makes an allegation, it’s got to go to court, no sense will prevail, it has to go to court,” Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roache, told the jury.
She asked them 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.”
Was it really credible Roache simply stopped being a “risk-taking, sexual predator” after 1972?
Glowing testimonies were given by defence witnesses, his co-stars, Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre Barlow and Helen Worth, also known as Gail McIntyre.
He was a “perfect gentleman” and “father figure” - not a man who preys on young girls.
And why did it take so long for these women to come forward, the jury were asked.
The 40 year plus gaps between alleged offences and allegations to police were explained on the basis, “who would you believe” a famous actor or starstruck schoolgirl, but this was “an easy excuse to adopt” Miss Blackwell said.
None of the women were outright branded liars or fantasists in court - fame-hungry wannabes they were clearly not.
But the “inconsistencies and contradictions” of each one’s “story” was picked apart.
The woman who accused Roache of rape had not just not told police - she did not even tell a schoolmate, best friend or any authority figure, the court heard.
She never “breathed a word” until the Savile scandal broke - and could not remember her exact age at the time she lost her virginity by rape, to the famous young actor.
“It totally lacks sense and credibility,” Miss Blackwell told the jury, especially as she claimed Roache enticed her again before a second rape took place.
Another woman initially told police actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin had warned her about “Cockroach” at the time of the alleged assault - but Briggs’ character Mike Baldwin was not even in the show for another five years, the witness later saying it was another actor who made the remark.
This was “reclaiming of memory” and a “gratuitous piece of detail”, Miss Blackwell said.
The letter sent to one complainant by Roache, which the prosecution claimed was proof of an invite to keep in touch for sex, was dismissed as mere fan mail and they were “scraping the bottom of the barrel” to suggest otherwise.
And the involvement of the press was also highlighted.
The husband of one complainant contacted the papers before the police - which “coloured” their allegations, Miss Blackwell said.
After Roache’s initial arrest for rape was “all over the press” she asked the jury whether any of the other women who came forward later could be regarded as “truly independent.”