By Damien Gayle
Coronation Street favourite Michael Le Vell today vowed to clear his name after being arrested on suspicion of sexually abusing a schoolgirl.
Le Vell, who plays mechanic Kevin Webster in the ITV soap opera, was arrested at his £750,000 home in Hale, an upmarket suburb of Manchester, before being taken to a police station where he was held for questioning.
With his lawyer present, the 46-year-old actor - a married father of two - spent eight hours answering police questions after a teenage girl made a formal complaint.
He has been freed on bail until next month and is said to have gone into hiding to plan a vigorous defence with his lawyers.
Today the actor issued a statement in which he said: 'I strenuously deny these allegations and will do everything in my power to prove my innocence.'
A spokeswoman for ITV said: 'We are aware an allegation has been made. Given that there is a police investigation under way, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time.'
A senior source at the soap stressed no charges had been brought and added: 'If the situation changes we will take whatever action we feel is appropriate.'
Le Vell is married to his childhood sweetheart Janette Beverley, an actress, with whom he has two children.
He joined Coronation Street in 1983 and quickly endeared himself to fans who have followed the trials and tribulations of Kevin, from Brian Tilsley's apprentice mechanic, through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor.
Childhood sweethearts: Michael Le Vell and his wife Janette at the Co-op annual masked charity ball. The couple have two children
As love-rat Kevin, Le Vell has been involved in some of the Manchester-based soap's most intense storylines, but has been known for at times taking a moral stance over his role.
He stunned Coronation Street bosses two years ago when he threatened to quit unless they put an end to Kevin's passionate extra-marital affair with Molly Dobbs.
At the time, Sally, Kevin's screen wife, was diagnosed with breast cancer and Le Vell told soap producers he would not play a character who showed 'no remorse' towards her.
A year earlier, Le Vell had also taken a strong moral stance towards raunchy photographs of his Coronation Street colleague Helen Flanaghan, who plays his on-screen daughter, Rosie.
He said he 'felt perverted' looking at the pictures, in which Miss Flanaghan wore just a basque and knickers. 'I've known her since she was a small child,' he said.
Le Vell featured prominently in last December's live episode, the highlight of Corrie's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Police said: 'A 46-year-old man from Hale has been arrested on suspicion of a historic sexual offence. He has been bailed pending further inquiries.'
Morals: Le Vell's character, Kevin, had an on-screen affair with Molly Dobbs, played by Vicky Binns.
He threatened to quit Coronation Street over the storyline
Le Vell trained at Oldham Theatre Workshop and first appeared on the famous cobbles as mechanic Kevin Webster in 1983, making him one of the Granada soap's longest-serving actors.
He quickly endeared himself to Corrie fans who have followed the character's trials and tribulations over three decades, first as Brian Tilsley's apprentice mechanic then later through to his stormy marriage to Sally, played by Sally Dynevor.
He lives with his actress wife Janet Beverley at their £750,000 home in the affluent Cheshire suburb of Hale.
A statement from Greater Manchester Police said: 'A 46-year-old man from Hale has been arrested on suspicion of an historic sexual offence.
'The man was arrested at an address in Hale at 8am on Friday, September 30, 2011.
'He has been bailed by police until 16 November 2011, pending further inquiries. The report was made to police on Thursday 29 September 2011.'