Friend persuaded woman allegedly raped by rugby players to go to Rape Crisis centre

Man who accompanied alleged victim home in taxi thought she might have been ‘star struck with Paddy Jackson’ at party

Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters.

Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters.


Laganside Crown Court in Belfast has heard that when an alleged rape victim ran from the house where she was assaulted she was followed by Rory Harrison.

The court has heard graphic description of how the 19-year-old student was allegedly raped by Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding at Mr Jackson’s home in south Belfast in June 2016.

Mr Jackson (26) of Oakleigh Park, Belfast, is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault.

Mr Olding (24) from Ardenlee Street, Belfast, is charged with one count of rape.

Blane McIlroy, (26) from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.

Mr Harrison, (25) from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

They deny the charges.

Mr Harrison brought her home in a taxi making her believe he was acting with some “gallantry”, said the prosecuting lawyer Toby Hedworth, QC.

The taxi arrived at her parents’ house at about 5.15am. From 5.16am after he had left they exchanged a number of WhatsApp texts. Mr Harrison told her to “keep the chin up you wonderful young woman.” He also sent texts asking did she have ear phones after which he sent her a media clip of music.

She did not reply until 10.08 am when she wrote, “Yea. Why? Lol.”

Mr Harrison explained by texts he had sent music to calm her down, and asked, “Feeling better today?”

She replied, “To be honest no. I know you must be mates with those guys but I don’t like them. And what happened was not consensual which is why I was so upset. Again, thank you for taking me home. That really was appreciated.”

Around the same time the complainant sent texts to two of her closest friends. In one she said, “So I got raped by 3 Ulster scum brilliant f***ing night.”

‘Worst night ever’

To another friend she wrote, “Worst night ever so I got raped.”

Over the course of the morning she exchanged a number of texts with that friend because she did not want her family to hear her talking about the incident. She wrote how Mr Jackson allegedly “tried it on earlier and I’d firmly told him where to go”.

She wrote about going to retrieve her clutch bag and Mr Jackson following her. “The next thing I know I’m bent over the bed...I have bruising on my inner thighs...And I feel like I’ve got bruising on my fanny...They were so rough I’ve got my period a week earlier.”

Her friend advised her to go to the police but initially she said she would not go: “Going up against the Ulster rugby. Yea because that’ll work.”

She further texted, “Thing is I would report it if I knew they would get done. But they won’t. And that’s just unnecessary stress for me...It’s also will be a case of my word against theirs...It will serve no purpose for me but be embarrassing...”

When her friend asked about DNA the complainant texted back, “Yes but they’ll say it was consensual. I was up for it stupid little girl now regretting it. You know the stance they’ll take. I’ll get the morning after. But that’s all I can do.”

Mr Hedworth also read what he said was a text which he said gave “considerable insight into what (the complainant) was prepared to do that night”. It read, “Like I hadn’t even shaved my legs/had only tanned the bottom of them and my arms. No way I was ready or up for f***ing anything.”

Eventually her friend persuaded her to go to the Rape Crisis centre. She was later examined at The Rowan, the regional sexual assault referral centre for Northern Ireland. The doctor examining her observed an area of bruising at the base of the labia minora and a one centimetre bleeding laceration to the vaginal wall.

“These findings would be consistent with blunt trauma to the area but do not demonstrate whether the intercourse was consensual or not,” said Mr Hedworth.

The complainant reported her allegations to the PSNI on Wednesday June 29th, the rapes allegedly having occurred in the early hours of the previous day.

‘Did not appear distressed’

Mr Hedworth also outlined to the court how one of three women who attended the party at the home of Mr Jackson where the alleged rapes of a fourth woman took place told police she heard moaning coming from Mr Jackson’s room.

She looked in and saw Mr Jackson “having sex with the girl with the brown hair from behind on the bed and the fella with the blond hair was lying on his back on the bed”.

The witness said that the woman may have been giving the other man oral sex. She thought all three were naked.

Mr Hedworth said it was clear Mr Jackson was having sex with the woman. The lawyer said that Mr Jackson asked the woman at the door, “Do you want to join in?”

She said, “No, I’m ok”, and Mr Jackson said, “Are you sure?”

She shut the door and told another woman at the party that “they were having a threesome in there”.

Mr Hedworth said it was right that the jury should know that in this witness’s view the complainant “did not appear distressed”.

He added that when this witness left the room “she did not feel as if she had just witnessed a rape”.

The other woman who attended the party told police that the alleged victim was really nice, that “she didn’t seem overly drunk” and that she was “quite quiet”.

Mr Hedworth said a “significant witness” would be the taxi driver who took the complainant home in the company of Rory Harrison who is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Said Mr Hedworth, “We anticipate that he will say that his initial reaction when his two fares approached his car was that the female looked upset and she was crying”. En route home, the driver added, she was “very upset”.

The driver also heard Mr Harrison speaking by phone in the car in what appeared to be “code”. Checks established that this call was with another of the defendants, Blane McIlroy who is charged with exposure.

The taximan overheard Mr Harrison saying on the phone “she’s not good” and that he would ring the caller in the morning.

The driver also noticed that when the alleged victim walked away from the car that there was a dark mark on the bottom area of her trousers “sufficient for him to check the upholstery of his vehicle”.

When Mr Harrison got back in the car the driver said, “I can tell you’ve had a rough night”, and that Mr Harrison replied, “Yeah, you could say that.”

The driver said that when police contacted him “he immediately knew what they wanted to know about because this girl had been so upset”.

Defence case

Mr Hedworth in outlining the details of the allegations at Laganside Crown Court on Tuesday, also gave details of the defence case.

He said that after Mr Jackson was arrested on June 30th he initially refused to answer questions but provided a prepared statement in which he “strenuously” denied the allegations. He said he was “shocked and horrified” at the claims.

Mr Jackson said that at the party the alleged victim appeared to be “into him” and that she touched him “in a flirty way”, and that she was “following him around and trying to chat to him”.

Mr Jackson, according to Mr Hedworth, agreed that nothing “untoward” happened when they first went to the bedroom. Mr Jackson said that after they went back downstairs she started touching and flirting with him again “so they went back upstairs again”.

He said the complainant undid his trousers and performed oral sex on him. He said that Mr Olding then entered the room not realising it was occupied and that the alleged victim “stopped fellating Jackson and started doing it to Olding”. Meanwhile, the lawyer added, Mr Jackson said he digitally penetrated the complainant’s vagina.

Added Mr Hedworth, “He (Jackson) went on to say they didn’t have vaginal sex because she asked if he had a condom and he did not. He said that there was a small amount of blood on his fingers and the bed but he presumed this was from her period, not an injury.”

Mr Olding was also interviewed on the same date. He said when he entered the room the complainant “was straddling Paddy” and that he “made to leave but she held her hand out to him”. He said the complainant then performed oral sex on him.

Mr McIlroy also was arrested and interviewed on June 30th 2016. He alleged that after he entered the room he found Mr Jackson and the complainant lying naked on the bed. Mr McIlroy said he sat beside the complainant and they both kissed.

He alleged the complainant “put her hand down his boxers and touched his penis” and that she masturbated him and also put his penis in his mouth for three seconds. Mr McIlroy said she asked him and Mr Jackson if they had condoms. Neither had so he left the room to see if Mr Harrison or Mr Olding had condoms. Neither had and when he returned to the bedroom the complainant was getting dressed to leave.

Mr Harrison was first treated as a witness rather than a suspect, said Mr Hedworth. He made a statement on June 30th but when “shortcomings in his account became apparent” he was interviewed under caution on October 4th 2016.

‘Star stuck’

Asked was there anything he had failed to tell police Mr Harrison said he had given his “complete recollection of the facts I had experienced”. He said he thought the complainant might have been “star struck with Paddy Jackson at the party”.

Mr Hedworth also referred to texts which showed that Mr Harrison “was not as gallant” as he led the alleged victim to believe. In one of these sent an hour after he had texted the complainant to ask was she “feeling better” he texted Mr McIlroy saying, “Mate the scenes last night were hilarious.”

Mr McIlroy responded saying, “Was a good night I loved it”, to which Mr Harrison immediately replied, “Walked upstairs and there were more flutes than the 12th of July.”

Mr Hedworth said that the morning after the alleged rapes the four defendants agreed to meet for lunch. The lawyer said that Mr McIroy said “there was no real discussion about the night before but Mr Harrison did tell them that (the complainant) had been upset”.

The court heard that Mr McIlroy deleted a text where he had texted to Mr Jackson asking was “there a possibility of a threesome” in the bedroom. Mr McIlroy was “pretty sure” he deleted the text because he was worried how it might be interpreted and he panicked.

The case continues on Tuesday.