Coronation Street star William Roache said he wanted to get back to work after he was cleared of committing historic sex offences against five women.
Following his acquittal by a jury at Preston Crown Court, he refused to comment on whether the four-week trial was “a witchhunt” but said there were “no winners” in the case.
The police force that investigated the allegations against him said it “remained committed” to such investigations and added it respected the verdicts of the jury of eight women and four men.
In a statement, Lancashire Constabulary said: “These very serious allegations were thoroughly and professionally investigated by a team of specialist detectives.”
Roache, aged 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the soap, was found not guilty of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault.
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 will excuse me, I would like to get back to work.”
William Roache leaves Preston Crown Court surrounded by media and his family. Pic: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
He thanked his employers, ITV Granada, his legal team, family, friends, and colleagues for their support — as well as those people he did not know who had wished him well.
An ITV spokesman said: “We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work.”
Roache, wearing a blue suit and the same blue-and-white patterned tie he had worn for every day of the trial, showed no reaction as the foreman read out the verdicts.
When the last one was delivered, the months of strain overcame his family in the front row of the public gallery as his younger son James dissolved into tears with a hand over his face, his elder son Linus wiped away tears, and his younger daughter Verity was hugged by her boyfriend before she also began to weep.
One of Roache’s minders sprang to his feet and shouted “Yes!” and began to clap before the judge told him to be quiet. Roache then left the dock and walked to the door of the courtroom where he was embraced in a bear-hug by his minder and for the first time he smiled broadly.
He then went into a nearby side room which he and his legal team have used during the four-week trial.
Shortly after, Roache’s family left court and each entered the room to hugs and smiles from their father, including hugs shared with his legal team.
The Coronation Street veteran was alleged by the Crown to have used his fame and popularity to exploit the “starstruck” girls, aged 16 and under, between the mid-’60s and early-’70s.
The women told jurors they were sexually abused by the defendant either at Granada Studios in Manchester, in his car, or at properties he owned.
Roache, with his sons James (left), Linus (back left) and daughter Verity (right), arrives earlier at Preston Crown Court. Pic: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
He was said to have raped one complainant at his then bungalow in Lancashire when she was a 15-year-old virgin and she said he raped her again in an adjoining cottage he owned.
Three of the indecent assaults were alleged to have taken place inside Granada Studios — in the gents’ toilets, ladies’ toilets, and a dressing room — while the fourth was said to have happened in his Rolls-Royce when he gave a lift home to a complainant.
But Roache told the jury he had no knowledge of any of the women and the alleged abuse simply did not happen.
Roache said he was “astounded” and “horrified” at his arrest on suspicion of rape at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, on May 1 last year. ITV announced he would not appear in the programme until legal proceedings were concluded.
The widespread publicity of the arrest led to four other women coming forward to allege they too had been victims in the same era.
Roache was arrested again last June and then charged with five counts of indecent assault. But the world’s longest-serving soap actor — who has appeared in Coronation Street since its 1960 launch — told the jury that sexual abuse was not in his “nature” and he had no interest in under-age girls.
Louise Blackwell, defending, said the whole case against her client was “nonsense”, with the trial haunted by the “spectre” of Jimmy Savile.
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