Belfast rape trial told messages were nothing but ‘a titillating sideshow’

Stuart Olding counsel says police made a ‘cardinal error’

The jury in the Belfast rape trial of Ireland Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding has been asked how a man with no history of violence on or off the field could commit rape.

Mr Olding is accused of orally raping a then 19-year-old Belfast student at the same time his teammate Paddy Jackson allegedly vaginally raped and sexually assaulted her.

Their friend Blane McIlroy is alleged to have then entered Mr Jackson’s bedroom naked and told the complainant: “You fucked those guys. Why not me?”

A fourth man, Rory Harrison, is accused of trying to cover-up the alleged rape by later giving police a misleading statement and deleting relevant text messages.


On Wednesday morning the jury heard closing arguments from Mr Olding’s counsel Frank O’Donoghue QC who said there is no evidence, aside from the woman’s account, that the sex was not consensual.

Mr Olding’s rugby career was “back on the up” and he “had everything to live for” when he was accused of oral rape in 2016, Mr O’Donoghue told jurors. He was back on the Irish squad after two years of injuries.

His career has been very publicly damaged by the case and his fame and that of Mr Jackson has been a “complicating factor” in the trial, counsel said, adding Mr Olding is glad a jury will decide his fate.

“Finally someone will listen to him and decide he has told the truth, warts and all.”

Finishing his closing address, counsel asked if Mr Olding was someone who would commit rape.

“Seriously? A man who has no history of violence on or off the field?”

Addressing text messages sent by Mr Olding to friends after the alleged rape boasting about “spit-roasting”, counsel said these were nothing but “a titillating sideshow and they have no evidential value in relation to my client in this case.”

He said Mr Olding were simply “bragging in the privacy of his own phone.”

He submitted Mr Olding answered all police questions in a frank and complete manner and this proves his innocence.

Earlier his morning, Mr O’Donoghue told the jury the evidence in the case “doesn’t even come remotely close” to allowing it to convict his client of oral rape. He said jurors must use evidence and not gut feeling or instinct when deciding their verdict.

He said when the case is stripped down the only evidence is the complainant’s word that she was raped. He contrasted this with several factors which he said were proof the oral sex was consensual.

The woman’s body position, the length of time the sex went on for and the fact that she brought Mr Olding to climax all point towards consent, counsel said.

Counsel said the woman’s evidence may seem “credible” but it is not “reliable”. He said she failed to mention oral rape to the medical examiner on the day of the alleged rape but later mentioned it to police.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t assume because an account appears plausible that it must be true,” he said.

The police and prosecution never really got to grips with the evidence in this case and never “got their hands dirty,” counsel said. He urged the jury to get its hands dirty and to “second guess every claim” before reaching a verdict.

Mr O’Donoghue asked jurors to consider several questions about the woman’s account. Why did she open her mouth before the alleged rape, why did didn’t she scream and why didn’t she close her mouth when it was happening? counsel asked.

Other questions included: What caused the oral sex to stop, did she stop it or did Mr Olding stop it, and where did Mr Olding go afterwards?

The woman recounted “false memories” to the police and the police made the “cardinal error” of believing these memories.

The jury will hear from Mr Harrison’s counsel after lunch.

Mr Olding (25), of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, denies one count of rape at a party in Mr Jackson's house. Both men contend the activity was consensual. Mr Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault in the early hours of June 28th, 2016 on the same occasion.

Blane McIlroy, of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to one count of exposure while Mr Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information relating to the incident.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times