A longtime star of British soap opera Coronation Street has been cleared of multiple charges of sexual assault against young girls.

A jury at Britain's Preston Crown Court on Thursday found 81-year-old William Roache not guilty of four counts of indecent assault and two counts of rape.

The offences were alleged to have taken place in the 1960s and 1970s. Prosecutors had argued that Roache took advantage of his fame to abuse star-struck girls and then keep them from speaking out.

But Roache said he had never met the women accusing him.

Coronation Street, set in a fictional working-class district in northwestern England, is among the longest-running programs on British television. Roache has played the character of Ken Barlow on the series since its first episode in 1960.