Rugby rape trial hears alleged victim went to police to stop it happening to someone else

Update 6pm: A woman allegedly raped by two Ireland and Ulster rugby players went to police to stop it happening to someone else, a court has heard.

Her friend, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Belfast Crown Court that despite concerns about publicity and going up against big names in sport, the alleged victim heeded advice from friends and professionals and reported the matter.

The witness said: "She realised it was not right for it not to be reported because she did not want something like this to happen to anyone else."

The high-profile rape trial, which is approaching the end of its third week, heard from three close friends of the alleged victim on Thursday.

None can be identified because the complainant is entitled to lifelong anonymity.

One woman, who drove her to a rape crisis centre, described how the alleged victim was reluctant to disclose names but told doctors her alleged attackers were publicly known.

When asked by prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC for the reaction of the doctor, the witness replied: "He said that nobody was above the law, that they should be reported to the Crown."

Four men are standing trial on charges connected with the alleged rape during the early hours of June 28 2016.

Paddy Jackson, 26, of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, and his Ireland and Ulster teammate Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, deny raping the same woman.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, denies exposure, and Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The woman described how her friend had been distressed throughout the journey to the Rowan rape crisis centre in Antrim.

Although they had been friends for years, she did not know what to say, the court was told.

"At that point in time she was very emotional and I have never seen that side of her before," the witness said.

She did not ask probing questions.

"I knew that pressing questions would not be appreciated," she added.

Later, when questioned by defence lawyer Brendan Kelly QC, for Jackson, about any physical injuries, the witness said: "When she was sitting in the car she was very uncomfortable, sitting gingerly."

Meanwhile, another friend in whom the complainant had first confided told the 12-person jury she assumed her friend would not lie to her.

In answer to a question from Mr Kelly about discussion of the importance of telling the truth, the woman said: "Because she had told me this, the truth was not basically in my head.

"I assumed she was telling the truth. She would not be lying to me."

CCTV footage showing the two women in the VIP area of Ollie's nightclub in Belfast was relayed to the court.

They left separately.

Asked again by Mr Kelly whether she had effectively "given up" on her friend who had shown "no interest" in joining her, the woman responded: "No, but then again I am not there to take her home. It is probably just out of politeness."

Earlier the court heard how the two women had discussed rape in text exchanges 12 days before the alleged attack.

When asked why the witness had said she would not go to the police, she answered: "I guess from what is going on in this room. It is daunting, it is quite horrible and you get blamed ...

"It is a distressing process."

When asked to explain further comments in which she had suggested blackmailing or stabbing rapists, the woman answered: "That was quite clearly a joke."

During questioning by Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Olding, it emerged there was "no reference" to oral sex in any text exchanges between the two women.

Mr O'Donoghue said: "She never said to you that she had been simultaneously raped in the mouth and vagina?"

The witness replied: "Not in that way."

There was also no mention that someone walked into the room, Mr O'Donoghue suggested.

The woman answered: "I remember she said that in trauma your memory could be patchy and could come back later."

Under cross-examination by Arthur Harvey QC, representing McIlroy, the woman again told the court she had never seen her friend so upset.

"As soon as she got into the car she immediately hugged me and started crying," she said.

The complainant normally keeps her composure, the court heard.

She added: "For her to just get into the car, hug me and start crying, I didn't even know how to respond to that.

"She has never been that emotional with me."

The court has heard about more text conversations between the complainant and another friend living abroad the day after the alleged rape.

The woman was asked to explain what she meant when she wrote "pretend" not to know the alleged assailants were rugby players.

Mr Kelly said: "Do you think she might be prepared to lie about it?"

The witness said: "I would never have told my friend to lie. Never."

Update 5.10pm: Rugby rape trial hears alleged victim initially reluctant to identify accused men

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding’s rape trial has been hearing about their alleged victim’s reluctance to identify the men when she first went to police.

The woman, who was 19 at the time, was initially worried about naming the Ireland and Ulster rugby players because of their high profiles.

Paddy Jackson is accused of raping the then 19 year-old student at a party at his house in south Belfast in June 2016. He also denies sexually assaulting her.

Stuart Olding is accused of forcing the same woman to perform oral sex on him.

Today, the jury heard about her reluctance to go to police. She told one friend she was worried she wouldn’t be believed because of who they were.

The police officer who first spoke to her the day after the alleged attack said the conversation was very difficult because she was reluctant to give him many details.

He said she just told him these were high profile people.

When she told him she’d been in Ollies nightclub the night before, the PC suspected they might have been Ulster rugby players and she confirmed it.

He said she eventually named Paddy Jackson, Stuart Olding and a man called Blane McIlroy – who is facing one count of exposure.

He said he logged her account but didn't realise he was supposed to fill out a “verbatim” account until after she left so he said he did that retrospectively.

Earlier another friend of the alleged victim told Belfast Crown Court how despite some concerns she changed her mind about going to police.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: "She realised it was not right for it not to be reported it because she did not want something like this to happen to anyone else."

The woman accompanied the complainant to the Rowan rape crisis centre, it emerged.

When questioned by Jackson's defence lawyer Brendan Kelly QC about any physical injuries, the witness said: "When she was sitting in the car she was very uncomfortable, sitting gingerly."

Update 2.45pm: 'She has never been that emotional with me' - Rugby rape trial hears details of morning after attack

A friend of the woman who has accused two Ulster rugby players of rape has told a court the alleged victim would not lie to her.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the complainant, was the first person to be told of the alleged rape almost two years ago.

In evidence to Belfast Crown Court she said: "Because she had told me this, the truth was not basically in my head.

"I assumed she was telling the truth. She would not be lying to me."

The woman was being cross-examined by a barrister representing Ireland and Ulster fly half Paddy Jackson, who denies rape and sexual assault.

Brendan Kelly QC had asked whether the two friends had any discussion about the importance of telling the truth.

Earlier the jury were shown CCTV footage showing the two women in the VIP area of Ollies nightclub in Belfast.

It showed them leaving separately. Afterwards the witness went to McDonald's, the court heard.

She was asked whether she had effectively "given up" on her friend.

Mr Kelly said: "You had waited by that time for close to 10 minutes and she was showing no signs of coming with you was she, from what we see on the video?"

The woman answered: "No, but then again I am not there to take her home. It is probably just out of politeness."

Mr Kelly added: "She had no interest in joining you that night?"

The witness said: "I cannot comment. I cannot really answer for her."

Meanwhile, the woman was also cross-examined on a text exchange in which the complainant said she wanted to speak to "someone legally" about the alleged incident.

The witness said: "Statistics generally are not in your favour and I presumed she was going to speak to someone about that."

Pressed further on the matter, she added: "I think she wanted to get actual legal advice."

However she said she was unsure what, if anything, was discussed.

Earlier the court heard how the two women had discussed rape in text exchanges days before the alleged attack.

When asked why the witness had expressed a reluctance to go to the police, she answered: "I guess from what is going on in this room. It is daunting, it is quite horrible and you get blamed...

"It is a distressing process."

When asked to explain further comments in which she had suggested blackmailing or stabbing rapists, the woman answered: "That was quite clearly a joke."

The alleged victim's friend was also questioned by Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Stuart Olding.

There was also no mention that someone walked into the room, Mr O'Donoghue suggested.

The woman answered: "I remember she said that in trauma your memory could be patchy and could come back later."

Stuart Olding.

The court also heard how the witness travelled to her friend's house the following morning and brought her to a sexual health clinic in Belfast city centre, after being unable to find a rape crisis centre.

Under cross examination by Arthur Harvey QC, representing McIlroy, the woman told the court she had never seen her friend so upset.

"As soon as she got into the car she immediately hugged me and started crying," she said.

The complainant normally keeps her composure, the court heard.

She added: "For her to just get into the car, hug me and start crying, I didn't even know how to respond to that.

"She has never been that emotional with me."

Earlier: The court heard about text conversations between the complainant and another friend living abroad the day after the alleged rape.

A friend of the alleged victim was asked to explain what she meant when she wrote "pretend" not to know the alleged assailants were rugby players.

Brendan Kelly QC, for Jackson, said: "Do you think she might be prepared to lie about it?"

The witness said: "I would never have told my friend to lie. Never."

Paddy Jackson, 26, and his Ireland and Ulster and teammate Stuart Olding, 24, from Ardenlee Street deny raping the same woman on June 28 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, denies exposure, Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The case continues

 

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