Coronation Street soap star 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 on Monday, Sept 2, 2013. Roache pleaded not guilty in court on Mon
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 on Monday, Sept 2, 2013. Roache pleaded not guilty in court on Monday to raping a 15-year-old girl and indecently assaulting four other teens in the 1960s. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - William Roache, a star of Britain's long-running Coronation Street soap opera, pleaded not guilty in court on Monday to raping a 15-year-old girl and indecently assaulting four other teens in the 1960s.

The 81-year-old actor has been on bail since his arrest at his home in Cheshire, north-west England, in May, and he was released on bail once again to await his trial starting on Jan 14.

Roache is a household name in Britain, where he has played the character Ken Barlow since the first episode of "Corrie" aired in 1960. He was taken off air following his arrest. He was initially 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.

Roache first faced two counts of raping the unnamed 15-year-old girl in 1967, and later prosecutors added five counts of indecent assault between 1965 and 1968 involving four girls aged between 11 or 12 and 16.

At a hearing at Preston Crown Court in north-west England on Monday morning, Roache responded to each allegation with a firm answer of "not guilty".

Guinness World Records lists Coronation Street, which portrays life in a fictional part of Manchester, north-west England, as the longest-running soap opera, and Roache the longest serving soap actor in the world.