'Coronation Street' star Bill Roache found not guilty of rape

Coronation Street star Bill Roache has been cleared of raping and sexually assaulting five women in charges that dated back to the Sixties and Seventies.

Lawyers acting for the  81-year-old, who plays Ken Barlow, argued that the proceedings had been 'infected' by the Jimmy Savile abuse allegations.

Bill Roache 

Outside the court, the actor said: "In these situations there are no winners... we should be much kinder to ourselves."

He added: "If you'll excuse me, I need to get back to work."

Bill has been away from the soap since April last year when his absence from Corrie was explained by saying his character was going on an impromptu holiday.

Three of his children, Linus, James and Verity were by his side every day

In a trial that lasted three-and-a-half weeks his colleagues stood by him. Anne Kirbride, who has portrayed his on-screen wife Deirdre for more than 40 years, took the witness stand and described him as a"perfect gentleman" who always behaved "impeccably".

His on-screen son Chris Gascoyne said he was an inspiration, while Helen Worth, better known as the soap's Gail Platt, described him as the programme's "elder statesman". 

As the not guilty verdict was read out three of his four children - Linus, also a well-known screen actor, James and Verity - wept. Along with a bodguard, they had accompanied him to court thoughout the trial from his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

As the actor passed them on the way out, he smiled in relief.

Colleagues including Anne Kirkbride described him as perfect gentlemen in court

The case was based on allegations by a woman, now aged 62, who claimed that the TV star had assaulted her on two occasions when she was 14 or 15. Four other complainants came forward following publicity about the actor's arrest.

He is now expected to return to the set. In a statement, ITV said: "We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work."

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