Coronation Street star William Roache said he was looking for love rather than "gratuitous sex" amid the collapse of his first marriage, a court heard today.
Roache, 81, told a jury he cheated on his wife with "a series of relationships" in the mid-to-late 1960s at a time when he is alleged to have committed two rapes and four indecent assaults.
The offences involving the five complainants aged 16 and under were said to have taken place on various dates between 1965 and 1971.
Prosecutor Anne Whyte QC put it to Roache, who plays Ken Barlow in the ITV soap, that he quickly became the "heart throb" of Coronation Street and at the time he had fame, celebrity and good looks.
He denied her suggestion that this caused him to believe he was "beyond sexual scrutiny".
"No, I'm sorry I was always very caring, always honest, even in the relationships I went into," Roache said.
"I was not interested in gratuitous sex and certainly not with underage people."
The defendant said his marriage to actress Anna Cropper was in trouble from 1965 until 1969 when the couple got divorced.
He was unfaithful "intermittently" as they led "virtually separate lives" with him living at their Lancashire bungalow and her at their flat in Primrose Hill, London.
Roache said he began a relationship with his second wife Sara Mottram in 1970 or 1971 and they were married in 1978.
He said he was "totally faithful" to her for 39 years until her death.
Under cross-examination from Miss Whyte, Roache denied that in the 1960s he was "plainly a man willing to take sexual risks".
She asked him if he would say he was attractive to members of the opposite sex in that decade.
"That is for others to say," he replied. "But I did have fan mail which suggested that."
The rape complainant said Roache had sex without her consent on two occasions when she was aged 15 in 1967 - at his bungalow in Lancashire and at an adjoining cottage.
Roache denied the suggestion that he effectively led the rape complainant down a corridor of his bungalow and to a bedroom with "no words or intimacy or foreplay".
"You put her on a bed and had sex with her," said Miss Whyte
"No," he replied. "Definitely and categorically not."
The prosecutor said that, just like other complainants, he took advantage of the knowledge that she would not say anything.
"I have no knowledge of this girl and no knowledge of taking anyone in the house," he said.
When it was put to him that he had taken advantage of his fame, Roache said: "I have never felt I was particularly famous. It never bothered me at all.
"I feel like a normal person. I am recognised where I go and it makes people happy."
Miss Whyte said: "I am going to suggest that you took what you needed and wanted without any consent at all."
Roache replied: "That is not in my nature at all. I really don't want anyone to be upset. I would never have forced myself on anybody and nor would I need to."
He denied he was "emboldened" that his alleged victim had not told anyone and that he raped her again on a second occasion.
Turning to a woman who claimed she was indecently assaulted aged 14 in the gents toilets at Granada in 1965 after performing in a children's talent show, Miss Whyte said: "As I understand your evidence, there is absolutely no way" he would find himself in a lavatory with a teenager assisting him in a sex act?
"Absolutely not," he said.
He said it would have been "very unusual" for unauthorised members of the public to roam the corridors without security or a chaperone being present.
Miss Whyte said: "I am going to suggest to you that (the alleged victim) was in the dressing room and you manoeuvred a situation quite hurriedly. You took her by the arm and took her into the gents toilets."
Roache said: "I absolutely and categorically have to deny it. I have no interest at all in sexual immaturity."
Miss Whyte went on: "After she did not complain or object in any way, she passed a litmus test and you thought it might be a good idea to arrange to see her again. Do you accept any of that suggestion?"
"None whatsoever," he said.
Roache was questioned about a letter and signed photo he sent to her.
Miss Whyte asked why a married man in his 30s was encouraging a schoolgirl to write to him.
Roache said it was just an example of "friendly" fan mail which he encouraged as there was rivalry amongst the cast as to who got the most fan mail.
Miss Whyte continued: "You sent that letter and photo because you rightly suspected she had not told anybody about the sexual encounter you had with her and you hoped for more?"
"Absolutely not," Roache replied.
Miss Whyte asked the defendant about a woman who claimed she was indecently assaulted by Roache in the gent's toilets at Granada and suggested he had acted in "an opportunistic and predatory way".
That complainant told the jury she had spoken of the assault several times and told her second husband a number of years ago.
Miss Whyte suggested this disclosure was well before the revelations about Jimmy Savile and what was described in court as the "culture of blaming celebrities".
Another alleged victim claimed that Roache sexually assaulted her in his dressing room after he had got her a pass into the studio.
The prosecutor put it to Roache that by this time he knew that if he made a young person feel special enough, she would accept anything he did without complaint.
Roache said: "I don't think like that at all. I have never thought I was special. I had no grandiose ideas about myself."
He denied fondling the girl in the dressing room.
"I get very upset if anyone is embarrassed," he said. "I always put people at their ease. I have never done anything like that."
Miss Whyte said: "We are talking about the 1960s?"
"I have always been the same," said Roache.
"I was not doing what I wanted, even with mature women.
"I have no interest in people under age and I have no interest in imposing myself on people."
Questioned about the fifth complainant, Miss Whyte reminded the jury that the alleged indecent assault was witnessed and corroborated by the complainant's friend who was passenger in the back of his Rolls Royce.
Both had been given a lift home from Granada Studios by the defendant, the Crown say.
"But of course, if you are telling us the truth, she's either very mistaken or dishonest?" Miss Whyte said.
"Absolutely yes," Roache replied.
Roache said the idea he would take underage girls in his car, where people could see him and "everyone" knew who he was, and carry out such an assault while driving was "absolutely ridiculous."
Miss Whyte continued: "You Mr Roache, was a risk taker at that time?"
"I have never been described as a risk taker," he replied.
The prosecutor continued: "No one is suggesting violence or force or aggression but merely an unrestricted and active desire on your part to extract sexual favours from these girls?"
"No it did not happen, definitely not," Roache replied.
"Because you presumed, for decades, such behaviour would just not get you into trouble?" Miss Whyte said.
"No, I made no such assumption," the defendant said.
Miss Whyte said: "If it's right these women reported these things to other people at various stages over the years and you are right, none of this happened, they must have made it up some time ago?"
"They must have made it up at some point," Roache replied.
Miss Whyte then referred to a TV interview in New Zealand about child sex revelations and celebrities where Roache said some people involved in the music industry "did not ask for birth certificates".
"Were you riding so high on what you thought was your sexual popularity you never thought to ask for birth certificates?" Miss Whyte said.
Roache replied: "I never thought about my sexual popularity, I was certainly not riding high on it. I have no great delusions about myself."
"Mr Roache, you took what you could, when you could, didn't you?" Miss Whyte said.
"No I did not," he replied.
Following the completion of his evidence the trial continues tomorrow.