Coronation Street actor in court

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache is to appear in court today charged with two counts of rape of a 15-year-old girl in 1967. The 81-year-old denies the charges.

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Roache in court over rape claims

Bill Roache arrives at Preston Magistrates' court Credit: Martin Rickett/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache, who lives in Cheshire, is to make his first appearance in court accused of raping a 15-year-old girl.

The 81-year-old, who has played Ken Barlow in the soap since its launch, was arrested at his home in Wilmslow on May 1 and was later charged with two counts of rape against his alleged victim in 1967.

In a statement, Roache said he was "astounded and deeply horrified by the extraordinary events" of his arrest and subsequent charging.

He added: "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."

Roache - the world's longest-serving soap actor - will not appear in the programme until legal proceedings are concluded, ITV said.

He 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.

Roache will appear at Preston Magistrates' Court for a routine hearing where the case is expected to be sent to Preston Crown Court for trial at a later date.

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