The jury in the rape and indecent assault trial of 'Coronation Street' star William Roache has retired to consider its verdicts.
Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, is accused of using his fame and popularity to exploit five youngsters between the mid-60s and early 70s.
His trial at Preston Crown Court, now in its fourth 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.
In denying all the offences, Roache said he did not even know any of his accusers and had never had a sexual interest in under-age girls.
The prosecution says the actor was “sticking to his script” in lying and if he was telling the truth, he was the victim of a “huge, distorted and perverse witch-hunt” .
Anne Whyte QC depicted Roache as a young man with “looks, fame and appetite” at the relevant time, which gave him the “motivation and the opportunity to behave improperly”.
She said his fame “put him out of reach” with his belief that none of the women would be brave enough to report him.
“Decades of silence” followed but times had changed now, she told the jury of eight women and four men.
Apart from two of the complainants who were sisters, there was no evidence to suggest any of the women who had come forward with similar allegations had known each other.
Louise Blackwell QC, defending, said the case against her client was “nonsense”, with the trial haunted by the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile.
She went through each of the accounts of the complainants to point out “contradictions and inconsistencies”.
Glowing testimonies about Roache’s “caring” and “lovely” nature were given in evidence by three of his Coronation Street co-stars, including Anne Kirkbride, who plays his on-screen wife Deirdre.
Miss Blackwell said it was “nonsense” to assert that Roache departed from his usual character and behaviour to become a sexual “risk-taker” between the mid-60s and early 70s.
The barrister suggested to the jury that fair investigations did not take place into allegations of such nature against a celebrity in the “post-Savile crisis of conscience”.
Roache, from Wilmslow, Cheshire, is accused of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault on various dates between 1965 and 1972.
He is said to have raped one of the complainants at his then bungalow in Lancashire when she was a virgin and raped her again in an adjoining cottage he owned.
Three of the indecent assaults were said to have taken place inside Granada Studios – in the gents toilets, the ladies toilets and a dressing room – while the fourth is alleged to have happened in his Rolls-Royce when he was said to have given a lift home to a complainant.