On-screen wife calls Bill Roache 'the perfect gentleman'

Anne Kirkbride and William Roache in a 1983 scene from Coronation Street.
Anne Kirkbride and William Roache in a 1983 scene from Coronation Street.

Bill Roache was "always a perfect gentleman" around his on-screen wife Anne Kirkbride during the filming of Coronation Street, a court heard today.

The actress, who plays Deirdre Barlow, was called as a character witness for the veteran soap star in his sex abuse trial.

Giving evidence at Preston Crown Court, Ms Kirkbride said that the one word she would use to describe Roache was "lovely", adding that there was 'never a hint or suggestion' that he had behaved inappropriately on set.

Fellow stars Chris Gascoyne, who plays the on-screen couple's son, and Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt, also gave evidence in court today.

Roache, 81, denies two counts of rape and four of indecent assault against five different girls aged 16 or below between 1965 and 1968.

On Monday he was cleared of one of the seven allegations against him when the judge ordered the jury to return a not guilty verdict on a single count of indecent assault.

Ms Kirkbride, 59, said she had never seen anything worrying about Roache's behaviour with young women on set from when she joined the show as a teenager in 1972.

Asked how she felt on her first day at Coronation Street, she said: "I was terrified for my first day. Very nervous going.

"It was a completely new situation. I didn't know anybody. I very quickly got to know people and it became easier."

When Louise Blackwell QC, defending, asked what she thought of Roache on meeting him, Ms Kirkbride said: 'He was friendly. I remember the first time I spoke to him was outside a lift and we had a really nice chat and he offered me a cigarette.

"We shared a lot of the same interests in spiritual things. I just found him very easy to talk to."

She went on: "He was always very helpful. Just very supportive and he made me feel comfortable and at ease in a place where I felt nervous."

Ms Blackwell asked: "Your contact with him in terms of a man and woman together, how did he behave?" Ms Kirkbride said: "Impeccably. Perfectly. He was always a perfect gentleman.'

When the lawyer asked, "When you first joined was there anything about his behaviour towards young women which was worrying?", she replied: "Not at all. No, never."

Asked whether she had seen Roache "in the company of young actors", Ms Kirkbride said: "He has obviously been in the company of younger cast members on a work basis. We have had several young actresses play the part of our daughter.

"He has never been anything other than helpful and supportive. There was never a hint or suggestion of anything else in all the years that I have known him."

She said her acting career had started in repertory theatre at the age of 16 and her original contract on Coronation Street was for 'three lines', but added that she "quite quickly" became a main character.

After giving evidence for around five minutes, Ms Kirkbride left the courtroom, smiling at Roache.

Chris Gascoyne, 45, who has played Roache's on-screen son Peter Barlow since 2000, told the court: "It's been a joy to be with Bill."

He said he had spent "hundred"' of working days with the defendant, but "always in the studios", adding: "We don't really socialise, the odd occasion at functions or charity dos."
Asked to describe Roache's character, he said: "Kind, warm, open, good sense of humour. Professional."

Mr Gascoyne told jurors he would talk to Roache whenever he needed advice and said the veteran "always had time" for him.

Ms Blackwell asked: "Have you ever seen him display an unpleasant side to his character?" The witness replied: "No."

Mr Gascoyne added: "Bill kind of sets the precedent for everybody, decent to everybody, kind to everybody and not a star.

"He's very calm, relaxed and you just get on with it and he takes every day as a new one, which is inspiring to me."

Ms Blackwell said: "In terms of contact towards and with young women, how would you describe it?"

He replied: "Completely normal. Well, nothing untoward."

"Is there anything you have ever seen about his character that would give you cause for concern about his contact with young women?" Miss Blackwell asked. "No," Mr Gascoyne replied.

The trial was adjourned until tomorrow with the jury asked to return at 11.30am.

- Daily Mail

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