Coronation Street star Bill Roache yesterday denied ever meeting the five women who accuse him of rape and sexual assault, telling a court that he had cheated on his first wife in the 1960s in “a series of small relationships” but that he was not a paedophile.
The actor also told a jury that he only sent a signed photograph to a 14-year-old girl because he wanted to get more fan mail than other cast members.
Giving evidence at Preston Crown Court, the 81-year-old said he had no recollection of ever meeting the women who claim he assaulted them in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when they were aged between 14 and 16. The actor denies two rapes and four indecent assaults against five women aged 16 or under between 1965 and 1971.
His barrister, Louise Blackwell, QC, asked: “Have you committed any of the offences with which you have been charged?” “No, I have not,” Mr Roache replied.
Earlier the actor had told the court he had cheated during his first marriage, to actor Anna Cropper, but added he was “absolutely faithful” to his second wife Sara Mottram, who died in 2009.
Three of Mr Roache’s alleged victims claim he assaulted them at Manchester’s Granada Studios where Coronation Street was filmed. Another woman claims he forced her to perform a sex act on him in his Rolls-Royce. A fifth woman alleges that he raped her at two of his properties in the Lancashire village of Haslingden when she was 15.
One of the women has previously produced a signed photograph Mr Roache sent to her in 1965 when she was 14. Signed “love Bill xx”, the actor asked her to write back when she “started school again”. The prosecution cite it as evidence of Mr Roache allegedly “grooming” her for underage sexual activity.
But the actor said the letter was just a polite response. “I would always write some personal comments in,” he said, adding: “Always you encouraged people to write back – that was part of the ego to be as big as your colleagues or bigger.” The trial continues.