A former colleague of Coronation Street star Bill Roache dismissed all sex allegations against the actor as a ‘witch hunt’ before a single piece of evidence had been put before a jury.
Former Granada secretary Valerie Byron contacted MM before the 81-year-old’s trial began but only now, because of legal proceedings, are we able to publish that interview.
Mr Roache, who was accused of two counts of rape and four counts of indecent assault, was cleared of all charges at Preston Crown Court today.
Ms Byron admitted that promiscuity was rampant at Manchester-based Granada Television in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Roache – known to millions as Ken Barlow – was alleged to have carried out the attacks.
She was adamant before the jury returned their verdict this morning that the soap actor, who was charged with a total of seven historic sex allegations, was innocent.
Speaking exclusively to MM from her home in California, Ms Byron said: “In those days, sexual activity was rampant at Granada, with both men and women having one-night stands with each other, regardless if they were married or not.”
Ms Byron claims that in 1967, when she worked closely with some of the station’s biggest stars, Roache was having an affair with another secretary at the Manchester-based company.
He has openly admitted of his past infidelity, and Byron maintains that at the time he would never have had to stoop to raping an underage girl as his charisma meant he had his pick of women.
“Young secretaries, including myself, were known to have hot and heavy love affairs with actors – and no one thought anything of it,” she told MM.
“Bill Roache was popular, charismatic and unhappily married in 1967.
“My friend confided in me about her love for Bill and the affair they were having that was kept very secret.
“Because morals and virtue were non-existent in those heady days, men like Bill Roache could have any woman he wanted… and there were plenty of them.
“For him to rape a 15-year-old seems ridiculous to me.”
Roache has played strait-laced Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since its launch in 1960, however he will not appear in the show while investigations continue.
Ms Byron, who now lives in California, said she thought Roache was subject to a witch hunt.
In March, he was forced to issue an apology after he said the public should be ‘totally forgiving’ of people who had committed child sex crimes, during an interview with a New Zealand news programme
However, speaking to ITV after the furore, he said: “I would never say that victims of sexual offences are responsible for the abuse they have suffered, and I apologise most profusely if I have been misunderstood in this way.
“I offer my utmost sympathies to anyone who has been affected by sexual offences or paedophilia.”
Image courtesy of ITV via ITV News Player, with thanks.