Coronation Street star William Roache arrested

William Roache. Photo / Supplied
William Roache. Photo / Supplied

British police have arrested Coronation Street star William Roache, the longest-serving actor 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 December 9, 1960.

He was arrested at his home in northwest England over an allegation of raping an under-age 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 on Wednesday.

He said 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 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 offences.

Earlier this year, Roache caused controversy when he said victims of child sex crimes had behaved badly in a previous life, and famous men could be "caught in the trap" of sleeping with underage girls and should be "forgiven" even if found guilty.

He was forced to apologise for the claims during a visit to New Zealand in March.

Roache said in the interview to TVNZ's One News: "If you accept that you are pure love, and if you know that you are pure love and therefore live that pure love, these things won't happen to you.''

Interviewer Garth Bray commented: "To some people that sounds perhaps like you're saying victims bring things on themselves is that what you're saying?''

Roache replied: "No, not quite, but and yet I am, because everything that happens to us has been a result of what we have been in previous lives or whatever.''

Roache went on to call for anonymity for all those accused of child sex offences because of the stigma they faced even if innocent.

He later apologised by saying: "I would like to say that I am very sorry for any offence that has been caused as a result of my comments."

"I would never say that victims of sexual offences are in any way responsible for the abuse they have suffered and I offer my deepest apologies if anything I have said has been misunderstood in this way."

"I had no intention of causing any kind of distress as a result of my interview and I offer my utmost sympathies to anyone affected by sexual offences and paedophilia.''

His comments drew stinging criticism from the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac), which called them an insult to abuse victims.

Roache caused outrage with the interview in which the furore around the Jimmy Savile sex abuse revelations were discussed.

Former DJ Savile has now been exposed as one of the country's most prolific paedophiles who may have abused hundreds of children.

In another interview last year Roache claimed to have slept with 1000 women.

Guinness World Records lists Coronation Street as the world's longest-running soap opera following the cancellation 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 paedophile 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.

- AFP with NZ Herald

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