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Inside John Savident’s marriage to Rona Hopkinson: How pair weathered Corrie icon’s rent boy scandal to build a strong 62-year marriage with star quitting soap for more family time


Coronation Street star John Savident has died aged 86 it has been confirmed, and is survived by devoted wife Rona Hopkinson and their children, Romany and Daniel. 

The actor’s death was confirmed on Friday, with his agent noting the loss the ‘much-loved husband and father’. His cause of death has not been confirmed.

While Savident did not make many public appearances with is wife Hopkinson and it has not been revealed how the pair first met, the couple married in in 1961.

They had a strong 62-year marriage and in recent years spent even more quality time together after he quit the cobbles to spend more time with her. 

Yet over the years the pair’s relationship was not without scrutiny, with male prostitute Michael Smith claiming the married actor had made sexual advances towards him.

Coronation Street star John Savident has died aged 86 it has been confirmed and is survived by devoted wife Rona Hopkinson (pictured on Wish You Were Here in 2008) and their children

Coronation Street star John Savident has died aged 86 it has been confirmed and is survived by devoted wife Rona Hopkinson (pictured on Wish You Were Here in 2008) and their children

Smith, of Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, made the accusations in court while on trial for stabbing Savident, and was later jailed for the attack, which took place in the early hours of December 1, 2000. 

He had overpowered the burly actor and held a knife to his throat as he threatened him: ‘I bet you have never met a schizo before.’

Savident had met Smith in Manchester’s Gay Village after making a personal appearance for World Aids Day and invited him home to talk about the theatre.

It was alleged that once at the star’s flat, the pair continued chatting into the early hours before Smith attacked Savident in his bedroom.

But Smith claimed that ‘discussions about the theatre’ was merely a euphemism for sex and that he had attacked Savident in self-defence after he made sexual advances towards him.

Giving evidence during the week-long trial, Savident described how he had made his way to Napoleon’s Bar – Manchester’s longest established gay night-spot – to see the owner, a friend of some 17-years’ standing.

The actor said he was approached by Smith, who claimed to be a drama student, and the pair chatted for up to three hours.

As the bar closed, he invited Smith back to his flat, near the Granada Studios complex where Coronation Street is filmed, to continue their conversation.

The actor's death was confirmed on Friday, with his agent noting the loss the 'much-loved husband and father'. His cause of death has not been confirmed

The actor’s death was confirmed on Friday, with his agent noting the loss the ‘much-loved husband and father’. His cause of death has not been confirmed 

In 2000, Savident was violently attacked after meeting male prostitute Michael Smith (pictured at court) in Manchester's gay village

In 2000, Savident was violently attacked after meeting male prostitute Michael Smith (pictured at court) in Manchester’s gay village

But he told the court that when he went into his bedroom to plug his mobile phone in to charge, he was shoved face down into his bed at knifepoint.

‘I was totally surprised,’ Savident said. ‘I suddenly felt somebody come up behind me and whizz me round so I was face down on the bed and then I felt a prick on my throat.’

The actor added: ‘He said to me something like, ‘I bet you have never met a schizo before’, which was really quite frightening.’

Smith demanded valuables and the keys to Savident’s classic Morgan sports car. But a struggle ensued and the actor’s neck was pierced twice.

Despite being only one centimetre wide and deep, one of the wounds missed the main artery in Savident’s neck by less than an inch and sliced straight through a minor blood vessel, causing him to bleed profusely.

The Guernsey-born actor lost around two pints of blood as he lay on his bed while Smith searched his flat.

‘It was like a scene from Bates Motel,’ he told police, referring to the hotel scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho.

As Smith went downstairs to Savident’s garage the star stumbled to his front door and locked his attacker out before phoning the emergency services.

‘I have been stabbed,’ he told the operator.

‘Where have you been stabbed?’ he was asked, before replying: ‘I don’t know, but I am dying.’

The actor was known for his booming voice while playing butcher Fred Elliott in Coronation Street after joining the ITV soap in 1996

The actor was known for his booming voice while playing butcher Fred Elliott in Coronation Street after joining the ITV soap in 1996

But despite feeling faint and fearing for his life, Savident still pleaded with the operator: ‘You have got to keep this out of the papers.’

He added: ‘I am John Savident. I play Fred Elliott in Coronation Street.’

Savident held his head in his hands as the court heard him panicking as Smith returned but, unable to get in, he soon gave up and fled.

The actor passed out shortly after letting police into his home. He came round in Manchester Royal Infirmary, where he was treated and discharged that afternoon.

Smith was arrested that morning in Manchester’s Canal Street district, his clothes soaked in Savident’s blood.

He was charged with wounding Savident with intent to cause him grievous bodily harm and robbing him of his wallet, credit cards, a silver money clip and cash, a Jorge Jensen watch and ring, keys and an invitation to Coronation Street’s 40th birthday party.

At the end of the week-long trial at Manchester Crown Court, the jury took little more than two hours to find him guilty of both counts.

Jailing Smith for seven years for the attack on the soap star, Judge Harold Singer said Savident could have bled to death had the knife severed a major blood vessel.

Six years after the attack Savident chose to depart Coronation Street to spend more time with his family.

At the time, Savident said he was leaving Corrie for ‘personal reasons’ but it later emerged it was in order to spend more time with wife Hopkinson, their daughter Romany, son Daniel and Daniel’s children – Molly and Charles.

Discussing his departure with The Mirror, he said: ‘It was the show itself that did for me – it was breaking my heart. 

‘I was becoming an absentee husband, father and grandfather by spending so many hours working on The Street.

‘I couldn’t go on any longer – the whole situation was becoming ridiculous and deeply distressing.’

He added to The People of his children: ‘They are really great kids, both sporty and so full of life and fun.

‘I regret missing out on seeing them during a part of their growing up.

‘I was becoming an absentee husband, father and grandfather by spending so many hours working on The Street.

‘I couldn’t go on any longer – the whole situation was becoming ridiculous and deeply distressing.’

Savident also revealed he hoped to stay, but show bosses left him ‘surprised and disappointed’ when they wouldn’t agree to his terms.

‘If they’d made things a little easier for me by letting Fred give up The Rovers or the butcher’s shop I’d probably have stayed,’ he added.

Fred is well remembered by fans for his friend Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) declaring her love for him just as he was due to marry Bev (pictured with Sue in 2000)

Fred is well remembered by fans for his friend Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) declaring her love for him just as he was due to marry Bev (pictured with Sue in 2000)

The actor was known for his booming voice while playing butcher Fred Elliott after joining the ITV soap in 1996.

Fred is well remembered by fans for his friend Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) declaring her love for him just as he was due to marry Bev Unwin (Susie Blake).

Savident’s death was confirmed in a  statement from his agent, who said: ‘We are sad to announce the death of the actor John Savident who died on Wednesday 21 February. 

‘He was a much-loved husband and father of two and will be sorely missed by all who knew him.’



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