William Roache, the long-serving Coronation Street actor, sexually abused a star-struck 14-year-old fan inside his silver Rolls-Royce before giving her change to catch the bus home, a court has heard.
Mr Roache, 81, used his fame and position to attack young fans in the late 1960s and secured their silence for decades, the opening day of his trial heard.
The actor, who played Ken Barlow in the soap, is accused of sexual assaults or rapes on five girls aged from about 11 to 16 in alleged crimes that date back nearly 50 years. He is accused of twice raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967.
Mr Roache is also accused of sexually assaulting two girls who had “caught his eye” and promised to secure passes for the Granada Studios in Manchester, the court was told. The younger one, then aged 14, was picked up by Mr Roache in his Rolls-Royce as she waited outside the studios with a friend in the hope of getting an autograph.
She described how she felt “frozen and petrified” as he made her commit a sex act on him while they sat in the front of the car, said Anne Whyte, QC, opening the case for the prosecution. Mr Roache then stopped the car, gave the teenager half a crown (12.5p) and told her to get the bus home, the court heard.
The elder girl, aged 16, found herself alone with Mr Roache at the studios and without warning he pushed himself against her, fondled her breasts and put her hand up her skirt, Ms Whyte said.
The actor attacked one 14-year-old when she turned up for a talent show at Granada Studios in Manchester, then sent her a signed photograph and letter to “secure her unquestioning loyalty”, Preston Crown Court was told.
Ms Whyte said it was not a “benign personal touch” but a “sort of grooming, as we would nowadays call it”. The girl felt “flattered”, even though she knew what had happened was wrong.
“This... demonstrates how easy it is for someone in the defendant’s position to manipulate the trust and attention of star-struck teenagers,” Ms Whyte said. Mr Roache also allegedly fondled one of his alleged victims after following her into a ladies’ toilet cubicle, the court was told.
One of the alleged victims came forward in March last year following discussions about other sex scandals involving the late Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile, which triggered the investigation against the well-known actor. “You may well conclude by the end of this trial that William Roache’s fame and popularity provided not only the opportunity for his offending but that it is one of the predominant reasons for his victims’ decades of silence,” Ms Whyte said.
She told jurors the women could have waited so long to have come forward because of the prevailing culture in Britain during the 1960s, Mr Roache’s status, or a natural fear about being believed.
“But just as you must not judge or dismiss the complaints because they took so long to complain, so you must not favour or condemn the defendant simply because you have heard of him or because he is over 80,” she told the court.
Mr Roache denies five counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape between 1965 and 1971.
The trial continues.