September 2, 2013 / 12:38 PM / 5 years ago

Longest-serving soap actor pleads not guilty to sex charges

British actor William Roache, who plays the character of Ken Barlow in the soap opera Coronation Street, arrives for a hearing at Preston Crown Court in Preston, northern England September 2, 2013. Roache is charged with rape and indecent assault. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - William Roache, the world’s longest serving soap actor according to Guinness World Records, pleaded not guilty on Monday to seven sex offences against five girls, a court spokeswoman said.

Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in “Coronation Street”, pleaded not guilty to two counts of raping a 15-year-old girl in 1967 and five counts of indecent assault involving four girls aged 11 to 16 in Manchester in the 1960s.

The actor’s trial will start at Preston Crown Court in northern England on January 14 and is scheduled to last four weeks.

Roache is one of a list of ageing celebrities to be accused of sex crimes in Britain after revelations that the late BBC television presenter Jimmy Savile was a prolific predatory sex offender sparked a widespread police investigation.

Roache’s arrest was not directly related to the Savile investigations which have led to 14 arrests and charges against four people including Australian entertainer Rolf Harris, former BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis, celebrity publicist Max Clifford and former BBC chauffeur David Smith.

The veteran soap star has played Ken Barlow in the soap since its launch in 1960. He will not be appearing in the program until legal proceedings are concluded.

Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith, editing by Paul Casciato

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