U.K. Celebrities of Years Past Face Sex Charges in 3 CourtsJeremy Hodges and Suzi Ring
In three U.K. courtrooms from London in the southeast to Preston in the northwest, three aging television and radio personalities face charges over alleged sexual-abuse dating back almost five decades, with two of them starting trials today.
Dave Lee Travis, a 68-year-old former disc jockey often called the “Hairy Cornflake,” is accused by London prosecutors of 14 counts of assault on 10 women and a 15-year-old girl between 1976 and 1992. In Preston, 81-year-old soap-opera actor Bill Roache will contest unrelated accusations that he raped a 15-year-old in 1967 and two assault charges dating back to 1965 involving girls who were 16 or younger.
U.K. police have arrested more than 15 people since 2012 as part of investigations that began with accusations against the late British Broadcasting Corp. television star Jimmy Savile, whose alleged actions triggered a scandal at the world’s largest public broadcaster. Savile, who died in 2011 before the claims became public, committed more than 200 criminal sexual-abuse offenses at the BBC, in schools and in more than a dozen hospitals, mental homes and a hospice, London police said last year.
Savile, who hosted the BBC’s “Top of the Pops,” wasn’t prosecuted while he was alive, even after four women made reports about abuse they suffered as children to two police departments in 2007 and 2008.
Travis, whose real name is David Patrick Griffin, worked for BBC Radio 1 between 1967 and 1993 and its World Service until 2001. When Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi visited the U.K. to address Parliament in 2012 she met Travis, whose show she said she’d enjoyed while under house arrest.
Miranda Moore, a lawyer for the prosecution in London, said that Travis took advantage of his role as a celebrity. Jurors were shown a clip from a “Top of the Pops” episode hosted by Travis that Miranda said captured the moment around one attack.
“This man has a propensity for offending against young women,” Moore said during opening arguments today. “He’s an opportunist who took advantage of opportunities presented to him.”
Roache is the world’s longest serving soap actor, having starred as Ken Barlow in ITV Plc’s “Coronation Street” since it started in 1960.
Roache, who sat in court wearing a navy-blue suit, would approach young women at the Coronation Street studios in Manchester, offering them tours and in one instance telling a 16-year-old girl that he would prolong her role on the show if she “played ball,” prosecutor Anne Whyte told jurors.
“Women who do not know each other are complaining about his behavior from broadly the same period,” Whyte said during her opening arguments. “Are they all manipulative fantasists riding on the coat tails of the nation’s post-Savile crisis of conscience or is the reality, quite simply, that they now have the confidence to give evidence about the truth which they had kept private for years.”
Both men have pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Martin Bale, a lawyer for Travis, declined to comment. Brian Russell, a lawyer for Roache, couldn’t be contacted.
London police started the investigation, known as Operation Yewtree, in 2012 following the Savile scandal. The Roache case wasn’t part of Yewtree, but a similar probe conducted by police in Lancashire county.
At the same time as the two trials start today, in a courtroom down the hall from Travis, another pension-eligible celebrity of years gone by attended a plea and case-management hearing related to sex crimes that allegedly occurred decades ago. Rolf Harris, an 83-year-old entertainer best known for novelty songs and hosting BBC children’s programs, pleaded not guilty to a dozen counts of indecent assault.
Harris’s lawyers at the firm of Harbottle & Lewis LLP in London didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.