Roache branded 'dirty old man'

Witney Gazette: Actor William Roache faces two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967, and five indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16 in the Manchester area in 1965 and 1968. Actor William Roache faces two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in east Lancashire in 1967, and five indecent assaults involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16 in the Manchester area in 1965 and 1968.

Coronation Street star William Roache was branded a "dirty old man" by one of his alleged victims, a court heard today.

The woman, now a pensioner, said she was watching the ITV soap with her husband who remarked Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the show, was "OK".

"I said he wasn't," the witness said, "I said he's a dirty old man, is what I said."

The witness was the second alleged victim to give evidence against the 81-year-old TV veteran, on day two of his trial at Preston Crown Court.

And she told the jury that when disbelieving friends mentioned sex allegations circulating about Rolf Harris she told them: "You better believe it, William Roache would do the self same thing."

Roache is accused of using his stardom to prey on young girls. He denies five historic counts of indecent assault and two historic counts of rape against five girls aged 16 and under. The offences are said to have occurred between 1965 and 1971.

The witness told the jury she was aged 16 when she said she was groped by Roache in the ladies' toilets at Granada Studios in November 1965.

"As I went in I suddenly was aware of somebody behind me and I turned round and he was right in my face, absolutely right in front of me. I could not move.

"He more or less pinned me against the back of the wall," she said "He put his hand underneath my jumper and squeezed my boob.

"It was very quick."

Asked about her reaction, she said: "To tell you the truth I was really cross because he was touching my new bra."

She confided in her husband about 20 years ago, jurors heard.

"I told him because we were watching Coronation Street," she said. "My children know as well."

Miss Anne Whyte QC, prosecuting, asked if she could remember how the conversation came about.

She replied: "Not really, I just know that in the context of the situation we were watching it and I told him that he (Roache) was 'a dirty old man'.

The witness said she had told a number of people about the allegation last year while out with her husband and friends for a Chinese meal.

"At that particular time Rolf Harris had just been cautioned and they said, you can't believe Rolf Harris would do such a thing," she told the jury.

"I said, you better believe it, William Roache would do the self same thing."

She made her complaint to the police in May last year after she saw a television report on the rape allegations that the defendant faced.

"I thought to myself how brave she was to do it," she said.

"I thought that if I told my experience it might lend some credence towards her allegations. I felt if he could do that to me, he could that to her."

Earlier the court heard from Roache's first alleged victim, who said Roache wrote a letter to the then 14- year-old girl weeks after he indecently assaulted her and asked her to reply "when you start school again".

She said Roache forced her to perform a sex act on him in the gents' toilets at Granada Studios in Manchester in the summer of 1965.

She had visited the studio with a friend to take part in a children's talent show when Roache pulled her into the toilets.

Weeks later she said she received a letter and signed photograph from the actor.

It read: "Dear (the alleged victim), thank you for your marvellous letter and the nice things you said in it. I am enclosing a photo which I hope you like. I am away for three weeks now but I would like a letter from you waiting for me when I get back. Write to me when you start school again and tell me more. Love Bill xx."

The photo was signed "Love to (the alleged victim)! William Roache (Ken Barlow)."

Prosecutor Miss Whyte asked her: "How did that make you feel?"

The woman replied: "I suppose I was flattered at the attention."

She said that after receiving the letter she returned to the studios later in the year, telling the court that afterwards Roache told her to wait outside and he would pick her up in his car. He later parked near a railway embankment in Stockport and she remembered Roache asking about her age and when she would turn 16, she said.

She added that he also asked her if she had "ever had it in the mouth".

"I had no concept of oral sex at all," she told the jury.

She said she thought that she had also been indecently assaulted in his car but she had "no actual memory" of the episode.

But questioned by Louise Blackwell QC, defending Roache, the witness said she could not remember many details about how she

allegedly got to be alone in the gents' toilets with Roache or any detail of a conversation they may have had.

"I think it's because it's 50 years ago and a lot of things are unclear about that day, but some things are clear," she told the jury.

Asked about the second alleged indecent assault, the witness said she could not remember any additional details about Roache's car or the journey in it that day.

Miss Blackwell said: "Would you agree, you have some very alarming lapses in your memory about these events?"

"No, I don't agree," the witness replied. "I think it would be strange if I remembered every detail of 50 years ago. I remember the unusual things that stand out in my mind, the unique things."

Miss Blackwell continued: "The other alternative is, it's just not true?"

"It is true, I'm telling the truth," the witness said.

Miss Blackwell added: "The lapses of memory are because you are making it up?"

The witness answered: "I'm not making it up. I would have no reason to."

Roache denies any sexual activity ever took place with any of the alleged victims.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow morning.

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