Belfast rape trial gains insight into accuseds’ mindset
Focus on social media texts between rugby players as prosecution completes evidence
Ireland and Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson. Photographs: PA Wire.
During week five of the rape trial of Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding the jury were given an insight into the mindset of the four accused in the days after the alleged rape.
The eight men and three woman (one juror was dismissed on Tuesday due to illness) heard WhatsApp exchanges between the accused in which they boasted and joked about their sexual activities. They also heard transcripts of the men describing to police, in measured and polite tones, their versions of what happened that night.
Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast has pleaded not guilty to rape and sexual assault in the early hours of June 28th, 2016 at a party in his house. Olding (24), of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, denies one count of rape on the same occasion.
Blane McIlroy (26), of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to 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 trial missed only one day of sitting this week due to the weather. This allowed the prosecution to finish presenting its evidence on Thursday, opening the way for the defence to begin their cases on Monday, a process which will likely bring the trial well into mid-March.
On Wednesday, prosecuting counsel Toby Hedworth QC spent about 90 minutes reading a list of text exchanges to the jury with the agreement of the defence lawyers. He also reminded the jury some of the texts had been deleted and later recovered.
Others remain irretrievable, meaning some of the conversations appear fragmented or out of order.
The men’s exchanges can be broken down into two main groups; those sent in the hours after the alleged rape and those sent two days later when Jackson, Olding and McIlroy were arrested.
The jury has heard Harrison dropped the woman home in a taxi in the early hours of the morning after the alleged rape.
Later McIlroy texted Harrison asking: “What the fuck was going on? Last night was hilarious.”
The reply from Harrison was deleted and not recovered but McIlroy replied: “really fuck sake” and “did you calm her and where did she live”.
Harrison responded: “Mate no jokes she was in hysterics” and “wasn’t going to end well”.
That same day the four accused exchanged texts with each of their friends. Jackson said “there was a load of spit-roasting” while Olding sent messages stating “we are all top shaggers” and “it was like a merry-go-round”.
Harrison wrote “there were more flutes than the twelfth of July”.
McIlroy posted a picture of him and three female party guests with the caption “love Belfast sluts”. A friend asked did “any sluts get fucked?” to which Olding replied “precious secrets”.
The texts continued in a similar vein on June 30th. McIlroy texted a friend saying: “Pumped a bird with jacko on Monday. Roasted her. Then another on Tuesday night.”
Change in tone
But the conversations between McIlroy and Harrison changed tone when they learned the other two men had been arrested at about midday.
Harrison told McIlroy “a girl from Monday might have cried rape”. They discussed what solicitor their friends should hire and Harrison said his father would know.
“Just a silly girl who has done something and regretted it,” Harrison wrote. “She’s causing so much trouble for the lads,” he added.
The trial also heard transcripts of interviews of Olding and McIlroy who both said the woman performed consensual oral sex on them.
Olding said he entered the bedroom to see the woman straddling and kissing Jackson and that she beckoned him over with her hand before performing oral sex on him. Jackson had told police he was receiving oral sex at this point and it was him who waved and smiled at Olding who stood in the door.
McIlroy is not accused of rape. The woman told police he thrust his penis at her and said: “You fucked those guys, why not me?” Jackson and Olding both said they never saw him in the room.
In McIlroy’s account, he entered the room to find Jackson and the woman lying naked on the bed and Jackson invited him in “for the chats”. McIlroy said the woman briefly performed oral sex on him before he went downstairs to look for condoms. He said when he returned to the room she was getting ready to leave and saying “This isn’t like me, I usually don’t do one night stands.” He added she didn’t appear upset.
Judge Patricia Smyth told the jury the men will have an opportunity starting Monday to give evidence themselves or call their own witnesses. The trial will then enter the final phase, consisting of closing speeches and jury deliberations.