Bill roache
Actor Bill Roache has been cleared of all allegations against him

Coronation Street actor Bill Roache said he "wants to get back to work" after he was found not guilty of a string of sex offences.

Roache, 81, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, was cleared of two counts of rape and five counts of indecent assault against five women in the 1960s and 70s following a trial at Preston Crown Court.

The actor, who has played the part of Ken Barlow in the ITV soap since it began in 1960, vehemently denied the allegations against him and said he had no memory of even meeting his accusers.

Outside the court, Roache thanked ITV and his management for their "loyalty and support" during the case.

He added: "In these situations there are no winners and I think we should all be much kinder to ourselves. Now, if you will excuse me, I would like to get back to work."

Roache holds the Guinness World Record for being the longest-serving television actor in a continuous role for his part in Coronation Street, but has not appeared in the soap while legal proceedings went on.

After the verdicts, an ITV spokesperson said: "We look forward to talking to Bill soon about his return to work."

The actor also thanked his family, who have appeared with Roache every day during the trial, as well as his colleagues, friends and "people I don't even know" for their support.

He also thanked The Circle of Love for their help – a spiritual group that "wishes to share wisdom, knowledge, but above all, love". Roache is known to be an active member of the group.

During his trial, his defence argued his arrest and subsequent trial had been "infected" by the torrent of abuse allegations made against Jimmy Savile and other celebrities since the Top of the Pops host died in 2011.

Louise Blackwell QC asked the jury not to "fall into the trap" of thinking there may be other women out there, in the "post-Jimmy Savile, post-Cyril Smith era".

Roache is the third Coronation Street actor to be cleared of sex offence allegations in the past nine months.

Michael Le Vell, who plays the part of Kevin Webster, was cleared of a string of child sex offences including rape and sexual assault in September 2013.

The actor, who was charged under his real name of Michael Turner, has since returned to the show after being temporarily suspended following his arrest.

Former Coronation Street actor Andrew Lancel, who played the part of Frank Foster, was also found not guilty of four counts of indecently assaulting a 15-year-old boy dating back to 1994 last June.