Rugby rape trial: Harrison guessed rape accusation was made because players were high profile, court hears

Update 6.50pm: A friend of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players guessed they had been accused of rape because they were high profile sports stars, a court has heard.

Rory Harrison was initially treated as a witness, but was later interviewed under caution on charges connected with the alleged incident in south Belfast almost two years ago.

Transcripts of three interviews conducted by police at Musgrave Street station in Belfast were read to the rape trial at the city's Crown Court.

A detective constable said: "You guessed rape? Out of every offence, you guessed rape?"

Rory Harrison

Harrison replied: "Quite often it is in the forefront of your mind when high profile sportsmen are involved.

"Because high profile sports stars are often brought into this sort of stuff."

He added: "Because they are high profile sports stars. All over the news, that's what you see with these sorts of things."

Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information about the alleged rape on June 28, 2016.

He was asked to provide a witness statement two days after the alleged attack.

When police called to his house they did not disclose they were from the PSNI's rape crime unit and only referred to an assault allegation, the court heard.

Several months later, in October 2016, Harrison was interviewed under caution and asked to account for alleged discrepancies in his statement.

In particular, he was asked about a telephone call in which he is alleged to have told Blane McIlroy a woman had "cried rape".

The police officer said: "How did you go from being told an assault to guessing rape?"

Harrison responded: "A rape is a type of assault. That was just something that crossed my mind given the nature of them being sportsmen and professional players.

"It has all been on the news."

The officer further suggested: "It's because she went upstairs happy and came down unhappy.

"You consoled her, a knight in shining armour.

"She told you what happened was not consensual and you guessed rape?"

Harrison was also questioned about his alleged failure to mention a text message in which the complainant told him the sexual activity had not been consensual.

"I was never asked if there was contact between me and (the complainant)," he said.

"If I was asked I would have answered fully."

His phone was wiped eight weeks earlier because it had frozen, the court was told.

The text was recovered from the complainant's mobile.

Later, the police officer suggested Harrison had deliberately omitted crucial facts from his statement and provided investigators with a "sanitised version of events".

"There's key things that were left out in order to protect your friends," the officer said.

Harrison responded: "It would be speculation."

Meanwhile, questions were also raised about discussions over lunch at a cafe on Belfast's Ormeau Road the day after the alleged attack.

Harrison could not recall talking about the night before, instead he told officers they talked about a South African rugby tour.

When asked why he had failed to mention to his friends the "distressed female" who had told him sexual activity was non consensual, Harrison replied: "I just sort of forgot about it."

Harrison later denied police suggestions the lunch date had been a "damage limitation" exercise designed for the four friends to put together a plan.

The police officer said: "It provided an opportunity to collaborate their story?"

Harrison replied: "I deny it."

Paddy Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park Belfast and his Ireland and Ulster team mate Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, also denies one count of exposure while Rory Harrison denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Update - 2.29pm: Accused tells rugby rape trial alleged victim 'showed no signs of distress or discomfort'

A man accused of exposing himself to a woman allegedly raped by two Irish international rugby players told police she had performed oral sex on him for 10 seconds, a court has heard.

Blane McIlroy was arrested and interviewed under caution by detectives from the PSNI's rape crime unit on June 30, 2016 - two days after the alleged attack.

An audio recording of his interviews have been played to the jury at Belfast Crown Court.

He told officers he walked into a bedroom and found Paddy Jackson and the woman lying on the bed, naked.

"Paddy says 'come in for a chat'," McIlroy said.

"I sat on the edge of the bed beside her and asked 'what have you been up to'?

"She seemed fine. No sign to me that she was in any sort of distress or discomfort."

It is the first time jurors have heard McIlroy's account of what allegedly happened on the night in his own words.

He said the woman did not attempt to cover herself with bed sheets when he entered the bedroom.

"I kissed her eventually," he added. "She may have put her hand on my waistband. I took my belt off and pulled my trousers down."

Blane McIlroy.

Jackson was still "fooling" about, McIlroy stated.

"She seemed fine. She was masturbating me. Eventually, after a minute or so she gave me oral sex for 10 seconds.

"I think Paddy was going to have sex with her again. She said 'wow you need condoms'."

At that point, the court was told McIlroy left the room to find a condom.

When he returned two or three minutes later, the complainant was getting changed.

He told police she was saying: 'This is not like me. I usually don't have one night stands. This is not like me.'

But he added: "She seems fine, not crying or upset about it."

The rape is alleged to have happened at a house party in Paddy Jackson's south Belfast home during the early hours of June 28, 2016.

McIlroy told police he had invited Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and Rory Harrison to his home to watch football the previous evening.

They consumed beer and ate pizza and chicken wings before going to another bar to watch another football match where they drank Guinness and a gin and tonic.

Afterwards the men made their way to Ollies nightclub in Belfast city centre where they partied in the VIP area with a few more rounds of drinks, including some shots, the court heard.

At one point, after a tequila, McIlroy vomited in the VIP toilets.

The court also heard how McIlroy was a regular visitor to Jackson's home, staying two or three times a week, and usually sharing his "big" bed.

12.11pm: Stuart Olding tells rugby rape trial: 'I wasn't forcing her'

The trial also heard audio recordings of police interviews with Stuart Olding, who denied having intercourse with the complainant.

Stuart Olding

He also told detectives that he did not see Jackson have intercourse with the woman.

Jackson was "sitting on the bed" watching the woman "give" him oral sex, according to Olding who also rejected allegations he had forced the complainant to perform oral sex.

When asked by police what made him believe she was consenting, Olding answered: "She was doing it. I wasn't forcing her."

Earlier in the taped police interviews, Olding was asked if there had been any discussion the morning after the alleged attack between himself and Jackson about what went on in the bedroom.

He said: "Yes. We just talked about what happened. We were pretty hungover. We were drunk whenever it was happening."

At the end of the interviews, Olding's solicitor Joe Rice said: "You can take it from his attitude that he categorically denies any involvement in these allegations."

Paddy Jackson, 26, of Oakleigh Park in Belfast and Stuart Olding, 24, of Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman.

Jackson denies a further count of sexual assault.

Blane McIroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, denies one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, of Manse Road, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The jury panel in the high-profile trial has been reduced from 12 to 11 because of illness.

Judge Patricia Smyth said she had discharged one man after receiving a medical report, leaving eight men and three women to hear the evidence.

The judge said: "I have received a medical report in respect of the person in your group who was ill and, as a result of the content, I have spoken with him and discharged him from any further involvement in the trial."

The trial continues.

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