An alleged sex assault victim of Coronation Street star William Roache said she felt "a coward" for not going to the police before she did. The woman claims the actor made her perform a sex act on him while he gave her a lift home in his Rolls-Royce.
The alleged incident is said to have happened between June 1968 and September 1971. Jurors at Preston Crown Court heard she contacted police on May 1 last year on the day that it emerged that Roache had been arrested on suspicion of raping a young girl.
Giving evidence, she was asked by prosecutor Anne Whyte if that had had any effect. She replied: "She made me feel a coward because she came forward first. She had guts to do it. "She was brave enough to do it. I didn't have the guts to do it first."
Roache, 81, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, denies two counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault involving five complainants aged 16 and under on dates between 1965 and 1971. Earlier, in a police interview played to the court, the woman said she was with a friend autograph-hunting outside Granada Studios in Manchester when Roache - who plays Ken Barlow in the soap - offered them a lift home in his Silver Cloud Rolls.
The witness's sister, who is two years older, claimed Roache indecently assaulted her on a separate occasion when she was aged 14, after they were both invited inside the studios by the defendant. Speaking of the alleged incident in the Rolls-Royce, she said she "froze" after Roache "fumbled with his flies" and then pulled her hand to his lap.
She added that she was "absolutely petrified". "You feel stupid because you had been in that position weeks ago," she said. "That was the second time I actually met or had dealings with William Roache. "The first time we went with (my sister)." After she got out of the Rolls-Royce when she said she was offered half a crown for the bus ride home, she said she told her friend: "God, (name). Did you see what happened then? I'm sure she said 'Yes'. I said 'I can't believe it'."
Years later she said she told her husband about the incident. He had noticed she was writing down the names of Roache - whom she called Ken - and former Coronation Street actor Neville Buswell, who played Ray Langton, the court heard. The witness has previously claimed that Mr Buswell sexually propositioned her when she and her sister had been invited to Granada Studios.
She eventually confided to her husband about both incidents and he urged her to do something about it but she refused. Asked by the female officer why she had not previously come forward, she answered: "Because I feel intimidated. People think he (Roache) is some kind of super actor and he is so good and so lovely.
"You don't stand a chance if you come forward and if I did go to court." The officer continued: "How do you feel about it now? I hate him," she said. "Hate is a very strong word... you are angry," said the officer. "Yes," she said. Giving evidence to Miss Whyte, she said a television interview that Roache had given had "really annoyed her".
"He said young girls who were going through this, they are being punished from a previous life... something they had done. That really annoyed me." She said her husband remarked that Roache was "nuts" and added "Who is he to judge?" Miss Whyte asked the witness if any other comments by the defendant had affected her.
The complainant replied: "He said girls were always hanging around the studios and they were throwing themselves at them... star-struck. "The girls that we saw were like us. I can never say that I saw any girls throwing themselves at anyone.
"There were actually boys there as well."
The court has heard that in March 2013 her husband had, without her knowledge, contacted the Sunday Mirror about what she had said about Roache. She said it had led to a row with her husband and has "actually caused a bit of a rift". Jurors were also told that the witness had been approached at her home by a reporter from The Sun in the days after she reported the matter to the police - and for a second time after she was interviewed by the police.
The complainant said she told the reporter she was not interested in money. Miss White asked her: "Do you want any money in relation to this?" She said: "No way. No amount of money will clear up what we have been through in the last few months."
Louise Blackwell QC, cross-examining, said to the woman: "What I am suggesting to you is that this just did not happen with Mr Roache." The witness, giving evidence via videolink, said: "It did... it happened. I am just so sorry I have left it so long to come forward." In tears, she added: "I know I am telling the truth and the person you are defending knows I am telling the truth."
The witness told Miss Blackwell that she recalled the actor who played Len Fairclough had made a comment when the sisters were in the company of Roache and Mr Buswell outside Granada studios. She said: "Len Fairclough came out and he shouted over 'watch yourself with those two, they will lead you astray'. "Everyone was laughing and joking."
Miss Blackwell asked her: "When did you first remember Len Fairclough saying that? I have always remembered that," she said. "Did you speak to your sister yesterday after she gave evidence?" asked the barrister. "No," she said. The witness said she was "absolutely certain" the vehicle she was assaulted in was a gold-coloured Silver Cloud Rolls-Royce.
She said she had got an autograph from Roache in a book but could not remember when that was given. Next to give evidence was the witness's husband who told the jury about when he first realised there was a connection between his wife, whom he married in the mid-70s, and Roache and Mr Buswell. He said: "What she used to do was doodle on the newspaper or any piece of paper.
"She was doodling William Roache and Neville Buswell. I kept asking her 'why do you keep doing that?'. She said 'I don't know why'. This carried on for quite a while. It was like weekly she was doing it. Then it was there all the time. This is when it really came out. It was really getting on my nerves. Why do you keep writing William Roache and Neville Buswell?"
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He said he did not recognise names at the time - only their characters in Coronation Street. "Eventually it all came out," he said. "She started crying. She told me that when she was about 11 or 12 she went down to Granada Studios. She used to go with her sister. Get autographs, watching people go in and out...stars, newsreaders etc.
"There was quite a lot of girls outside who got autographs. At one point they got passes. William Roache and Neville Buswell got them passes to go inside."
He said his wife had gone one way with Mr Buswell into one dressing room and her sister had gone the other with Roache. He said Mr Buswell had propositioned his wife. The witness added: "My wife said no." He said his wife then waited for her sister to return.
He said learning of the incident had left him "very upset" and "absolutely fuming". "I said at that time we should go to the police about this," he told the court. I said she should have gone to the police when she was 11 or 12 years old."
"She felt ashamed," he said. "She didn't want anyone to know. She didn't even tell her parents at the time."
He said she told him that she did return to the studios though with a friend and had accepted a lift home from Roache in his Rolls-Royce. The complainant's husband said what his wife had told him had "cropped up on many occasions over the last 35 years".
"I didn't like bringing it up too often because it really upsets her," he said. "I wanted her to go to the police. People need to know what he was like." He then explained how in March last year he submitted an online 'sell your story' form to the Sunday Mirror.
He said he did so in response to a TV interview that Roache gave in New Zealand. "I was absolutely fuming," he said. "He made it out the girls threw themselves at him, that they were all easy and sexually active. And I know for a fact they weren't and my wife wasn't.
"I was extremely cross to put it mildly. He stated that there were girls or people suffering because of things they had done in a past life. They were being punished in this life. That really got my goat. It's a ridiculous thing to say. I hope it's true because someone in this room is going to have a really bad life in the next one."
Miss Whyte asked him what he thought would happen from telling a newspaper that Roache had got his wife to perform a sex act on him. He replied: "I just wanted to tell somebody about what happened all those years ago because I couldn't go to the police on behalf of my wife. My intention was not to sell a story because it was not my story."
He said his wife was unaware of what he had done but he said he could no longer "bottle this up" with Roache being made to look like "the nice Ken Barlow when he is not". The man told Miss Blackwell that he had not rehearsed his account of what his wife had told him about the alleged sex assault. He also denied speaking to his wife on the subject yesterday.
The husband said he had discussed the topic many times over the four decades. He was asked why he had not thought of going to Social Services or the Citizen's Advice Bureau instead of a newspaper. "'I wanted to tell the story not sell the story," he said. He said he thought a newspaper might be capable of doing an expose with victims who were not prepared to go to the police.
But he did not believe anything would be published, he said. "I was stupid to do that and I regret it," he said. He said he had always wanted his wife to go to the police but denied he had pressurised her.