Coronation Street star Bill Roache strenuously denies allegations he raped underage girl in 1967

Roache, 81, was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire and was interviewed by police late into yesterday evening

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The Independent Online

The Coronation Street star Bill Roache today strenuously denied two historic rape allegations relating to an underage girl and said he was horrified by the events of the last twenty-four hours.

Roache, 81, was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, and was interviewed by police late into yesterday evening.

In a statement issued by his lawyers today, he said: "I am astounded and deeply horrified by the extraordinary events of the last twenty-four hours." 

"I strenuously deny the allegations and will now focus my full attention on fighting to preserve my innocence in the challenging times ahead."

"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those people who have offered me their support and good wishes at this difficult time."

The Crown Prosecution Service has said he will face two charges of rape, and he will appear at Preston Magistrates’ Court on 14 May.

Roache, awarded an MBE in 2001, faces two allegations of raping the girl in Lancashire 46 years ago.

A statement from Lancashire Police said: "The offences are alleged to have been committed in Haslingden between April and July 1967 and to involve a girl aged 15 years."

"We have been reviewing evidence and providing early investigative advice to Lancashire Police since 1 March 2013.

"Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967."

Roache - the world's longest-serving soap actor - will not appear in the show while investigations continue.

An ITV spokesman said last night: "Bill Roache will not be appearing in Coronation Street until legal proceedings are concluded."

Roache, wearing a dark pullover, checked shirt and jacket, returned to his home last night, around 14 hours after his initial arrest, in a car driven by his solicitor.

Roache collected an award from Guinness World Records in 2010 for his long service in Coronation Street, having joined in 1960 and appearing regularly ever since.

Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West said: "This decision was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors and our guidance for prosecutors on sexual offences.

"Mr Roache has a right to a fair trial and it is therefore very important that nothing is said, or reported, which could prejudice that trial. For these reasons, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further."