World’s longest-serving soap star held in rape claim

AFP, LONDON

Fri, May 03, 2013 - Page 7

British police on Wednesday arrested Coronation Street star William Roache, the longest-serving star in the world’s longest-running soap opera, on suspicion of rape.

Roache, 81, has played lothario Ken Barlow in the series portraying life in a fictional northern English town since its first episode on Dec. 9, 1960.

He was arrested at his home in northwest England over an allegation of raping an underage girl between April and July 1967.

“An 81-year-old man from Wilmslow in Cheshire has this morning, Wednesday, May 1, 2013, been arrested by Lancashire Constabulary on suspicion of rape,” a Lancashire Police spokesman said, adding that the man would be interviewed during the course of the day.

Broadcaster ITV, which makes Coronation Street, said it was not in a position to comment, but reports said Roache would not appear in the soap while investigations continue.

Roache issued an apology in March after appearing to suggest that sex abuse victims were being punished for past sins, and calling for anonymity for those accused of child sex offenses.

In another interview last year Roache claimed to have slept with 1,000 women.

Guinness World Records lists Coronation Street as the world’s longest-running soap opera following the cancelation in September 2010 of the US show As the World Turns, which ran from 1956 on CBS. It also lists Roache as the longest-serving soap actor.

British police have arrested a series of celebrities since sex abuse allegations against the late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile emerged last year, although the allegations against Roache are unrelated to Savile.

Top British publicist Max Clifford was charged on Friday with 11 counts of indecent assault, while former glam rocker and convicted pedophile Gary Glitter, comedian Freddie Starr and radio presenter Dave Lee Travis have been arrested and bailed.

Veteran Australian-born entertainer Rolf Harris has been named by the British media as another of the men interviewed as part of the investigation, although police have never named him.