Belfast rape trial: Week three evidence focused on before and after
Six women gave evidence after the complainant
Evidence during week three of the rape trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding focused on what happened directly before and after the alleged incident as well as the demeanour of the complainant over the following days.
When the now 21-year-old Belfast student finished her evidence on Tuesday morning, after eight days in the witness box, she was followed by six female witnesses. Three of these women had been party guests at Mr Jackson’s home on the night of alleged rape.
The other three were friends of the alleged victim who interacted with her in the days after the incident and found her to be in a distressed state and not herself.
Mr Jackson (26) and Mr Olding (24) deny one count of rape of the woman at Mr Jackson’s house on June 26th, 2016. Both men contend the activity was consensual.
Blane McIlroy (26) denies one count of exposure while Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information relating to the incident.
The three women who went back to the house-party in Mr Jackson’s house after a night out in Ollie’s nightclub all gave evidence they felt safe in the house and saw nothing to cause them concern.
Claire Matthews, who was at the party with her friends Dara Florence and Emily Docherty, described a a “chilled” atmosphere at the house with “a few drinks and some music”.
Of the complainant she said, “I’d say she had been drinking too but not considerably a lot.”
She said she was trying to include the woman because she was on her own and she felt sorry for her.
At about 4am she and Ms Florence decided to leave and went to find Ms Docherty. Ms Florence told the trial she heard moaning noises coming from a bedroom.
She said she entered the room and saw Mr Jackson having sex with the complainant. She said the complainant had her head somewhere around Mr Olding’s “middle.”
Ms Florence said she saw the woman turn her face away from her. She said Mr Jackson asked her if she wanted to “join in”. She said no and closed the door.
She told the trial she walked in on a “threesome”, not a rape. There was nothing about what she saw to indicate a lack of consent on the part of the complainant, she said. She added there was also nothing to indicate “positive consent” during the brief period she witnessed the sexual activity.
Both women then got in a taxi home, leaving Ms Docherty asleep on a couch. They both said they had no concerns about leaving their friend in the house.
Ms Docherty gave evidence that when she awoke the next morning Ms Florence rang her and told her about the “threesome”. Ms Docherty asked Mr Jackson about this.
“He just shook his head and just said no, nothing happened. I thought he knew what I was talking about but because he shook his head I didn’t pursue anymore,” she said.
On Thursday friends of the complainant, who cannot be named to protect her identity, gave evidence. One of these women had been out with her the night in Ollie’s nightclub but did not go back to Mr Jackson’s house.
Much of the day’s evidence was taken up with a text conversation between the two women two weeks before the alleged rape in which they generally discussed the issue of reporting sex crime.
The friend stated she wouldn’t report it if she was raped but would deal with the matter herself by “stabbing” or “blackmailing” her attacker. This was meant as a joke, she told counsel.
Asked by counsel why she wouldn’t go to police, the witness replied: “Because of what’s happening in this room. It’s daunting, quite horrible and you get blamed. It’s a distressing process”.
The witness also said she had never seen the complainant as upset as she was when she picked her up in her car the day after the alleged rape. The complainant got in, hugged her and started crying, she said.
She had known her friend for a long time and had seen her through “sad” incidents before but she had never seen her like this, she said. Her friend had always kept her composure and been “verbally strong”.
“For her to just get in the car and not stop crying. I didn’t know how to respond. That shook me.
Her two other friends gave similar evidence with one stating: “She looked physically unwell. I’d never seen her cry before and I’ve always known her to be private with her emotions.”
It was this friend who convinced the complainant to go to police the day after the alleged rape, the trial heard. The woman was initially reluctant to “go up against” Ulster rugby, the trial heard.
There was also evidence from the taxi driver who picked the complainant up from the party in the early hours. She was accompanied by Mr Harrison who appeared to be holding her head and comforting her. She sobbed throughout the journey, he said.
According to the driver, at one point Mr Harrison made or received a phone call on which he said: “She is with me now. She is not good. I’ll call you in the morning.”
The trial also heard from the PSNI officer who took the woman’s initial statement on the evening of June 29th. She initially refused to name the men, telling him only they were “high profile.” However the officer was able to correctly guess they were from Ulster rugby as his own daughter had told him the team was in Ollie’s that night.
The woman later specifically identified the men as Mr Olding, Mr Jackson and Mr McIlroy.
The trial, which is before Judge Patricia Smyth, is now moving onto the final stage of the prosecution’s case. On Tuesday, the jury will continue hearing from police witnesses before being read the accused’s statements of interview.
It is expected the prosecution case will conclude by Thursday. The defence will then indicate if it intends to call any evidence.