'Horrified' Bill Roache to fight rape claims
Coronation Street actor Bill Roache vowed today to fight allegations that he raped a 15-year-old girl in 1967.
In a statement he said: "I am astounded and deeply horrified by the extraordinary events of the last 24 hours.
"I strenuously deny the allegations and will now focus my full attention on fighting to preserve my innocence in the challenging times ahead.
"I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all those people who have offered me their support and good wishes at this difficult time."
The 81-year-old, who has played Ken Barlow in the ITV soap since its launch, was arrested at his home in Wilmslow, Cheshire, yesterday.
Lancashire Police said last night that the actor was being charged with two counts of rape following consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
The force said: "The offences are alleged to have been committed in Haslingden between April and July 1967 and to involve a girl aged 15 years."
Nazir Afzal, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS North West, said: "We have carefully considered all the evidence gathered by Lancashire Police in relation to William Roache following allegations of rape.
"We have been reviewing evidence and providing early investigative advice to Lancashire Police since 1 March 2013.
"Having completed our review, we have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967."
He will appear at Preston Magistrates' Court on May 14.
Roache - the world's longest-serving soap actor - will not appear in Coronation Street until legal proceedings are concluded, ITV said last night.
The actor, wearing a dark pullover, checked shirt and jacket, returned to his home last night, around 14 hours after his initial arrest, in a car driven by someone else.
He made no comment.
There was a large media presence outside the address today but no sign of the actor.
Roache collected an award from Guinness World Records in 2010 for his long service in Coronation Street, having joined in 1960 and appeared regularly ever since.