British television actor William Roache, the longest-serving star in the world's longest-running soap opera, has strongly protested his innocence after being charged with rape.
The 81-year-old, who has played Ken Barlow in Coronation Street since the first episode in 1960, is accused of two counts of rape against a 15-year-old girl dating to 1967.
In a statement, Roache said he was "astounded and deeply horrified by the extraordinary events of the last 24 hours".
"I strenuously deny the allegations and will now focus my full attention on fighting to preserve my innocence in the challenging times ahead," he said.
He was charged under a police investigation into historic sex abuse sparked by the revelations against late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile, now considered one of Britain's most prolific sex offenders.
Guinness World Records lists Coronation Street, which portrays life in a fictional part of Manchester, northwest England, as the longest-running soap opera, and Roache the longest-serving soap actor in the world.
Broadcaster ITV said Roache will not appear in the show until the legal proceedings against him are concluded.