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Longest-serving soap actor charged in UK with rape

LONDON (Reuters) - William Roache, the world's longest serving soap actor according to Guinness World Records, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of rape against an underage girl, British prosecutors said.

Roache, 81, who plays Ken Barlow in the popular soap opera "Coronation Street", is the latest high-profile figure to be accused of sex crimes in Britain since the death of BBC television presenter Jimmy Savile in 2011.

Savile was one of the BBC's biggest stars in the 1970s and 1980s, but after his death police discovered he had allegedly committed sex crimes on an unprecedented scale, triggering an investigation that has netted several other celebrities.

"We have concluded that there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest for Mr Roache to be charged with two offences of rape relating to a girl, aged 15, in 1967," said prosecutor Nazir Afzal in a statement.

Roache is expected to appear at Preston Magistrates' Court, in northern England, on May 14. Neither he nor his representatives have made any comment since his arrest earlier on Wednesday.

Roache's arrest was not directly related to Savile investigations.

Other high-profile figures arrested in connection with sexual crimes since the Savile probe began include celebrity publicist Max Clifford, glam-rock singer Gary Glitter and comedian Freddie Starr, all of whom deny any wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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