‘Utter scum’ - Belfast rape trial hears of text exchange
Friend of alleged rape victim describes how she tried to convince her to go to police
Stuart Olding (left) and Paddy Jackson are charged with rape. Photographs: Niall Carson/PA
The friend of a woman who was allegedly raped by Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding has described how she tried to convince her to go to the police or a rape crisis centre afterwards.
The witness told the trial her friend “was of sound mind” and “could look after herself” when she left her at the nightclub the night before. She estimated the woman had the same amount of drinks she did - three double vodkas.
The witness had been at Ollie’s nightclub with the complainant and other friends but went home separately, she said.
She told the trial at Laganside Crown Court she received text messages from the complainant the morning after, stating: “Worst night ever. So I got raped.” This was followed by five upside down smiley-face emojis.
The witness told Toby Hedworth QC, prosecuting, she was in shock when she received this and replied: “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have left you. I’ll never leave you again”.
The complainant expressed concern about “going up against Ulster rugby”. She was concerned she wouldn’t be believed and that it would be the men’s words against hers.
She described a “rugby school boys attitude times a million” and said the men were “scum”. The witness texted back “utter scum”.
The following exchange of texts, most of which were read out to the court earlier in the trial, involved the woman attempting to convince the complainant to go to the police “or the rape crisis at the very least.”
She later accompanied the complainant into Belfast city centre in search of the Rape Crisis Centre.
They went into another sexual health clinic to ask its location and were informed the centre had closed down.
However the clinic staff invited them in. “They were really good. They kind of took over with her from there,” she said.
The witness said staff took the woman into a room where she was informed about screening, swabs, the taking of DNA evidence and counselling services.
Afterwards the witness texted her friend again, asking her to go to the police when she is ready.
The complainant told the witness she wanted to “speak to someone legally to see what my chances are” before going to the police.
The witness said she sent the complainant some photographs from the house-party which had been uploaded to social media. The complainant replied one of the photos showed her putting her shoes on in the background as she was getting ready to leave.
Before the court are Mr Jackson (26), of Oakleigh Park, Belfast who is charged with one count of rape and one count of sexual assault and of Mr Olding (24), of Ardenlee Street, Belfast, who is charged with one count of rape.
Blane McIlroy (26), of Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.
Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
They all deny the charges with Mr Jackson and Mr Olding contending that the activity was consensual. The offences allegedly happened in the early hours of June 28th, 2016.
Under cross-examination from Brendan Kelly QC, defending Mr Jackson, the woman said she did not know the complainant had gone to a house-party with the men until she a received a text message from her after they had left the club.
The witness said she replied “oh right, random” when her friend told her where she had gone. She said she did not hear from her again until the next morning.
Mr Kelly put it to her that CCTV footage from the nightclub showed her appearing to wait for someone at the end of the night. The woman said she was probably waiting for the complainant. Asked why she hadn’t said this in her statement to police, she replied she couldn’t remember it.
Earlier on Wednesday, the trial heard from a taxi driver who said he picked up a crying and sobbing woman in the early hours of the morning of the alleged rape.
Stephen Fisher said he was working over the night of June 27th and 28th, 2016 and was driving down Ravenhill Road when he spotted a man and woman. He later identified the man as one of the defendants, Rory Harrison, who is accused of perverting the course of justice.
The woman appeared upset and the man was comforting her.
He then got a call over the radio that he was to pick up the pair. They got into the back of the car and woman gave him an address.
“The young woman definitely seemed very upset. She was crying stroke sobbing throughout the journey,” he said. “She didn’t really talk very much at all bar telling me where I needed to go to.”
Mr Fisher told prosecuting counsel Toby Hedworth QC: “The gentleman was attempting to comfort the lady. Her head was placed on his chest and he was trying to comfort her.”
In the early part of the journey Mr Harrison either made or received a phone call. He said there were just “snippets of conversation, there wasn’t really any fluid conversation” on the call.
He said Mr Harrison remembers the man saying: “She is with me now. She is not good. I’ll call you in the morning.”
The driver took them to the address and the pair got out. He said the woman appeared unsteady on her feet and was being held by Mr Harrison.
He said they didn’t seem “overly intoxicated but there were signs of a good amount of drink taken that night.” He said they looked slightly hungover and “rough from the night before.”
He noticed a stain on the back of the woman’s white trousers, something he said wasn’t unusual in his job. He checked the backseat after she got out but didn’t find any stains.
Mr Harrison then got back in the car on his own and gave another address. Mr Fisher said he said to him either “rough night?” or “bad night?”.
Mr Harrison responded: “You have no idea. You could say that,” the witness said.
“To me that was my sign to not ask more about it. I felt it wasn’t really my business.”
Mr Fisher said when the police later contacted him and it “dawned” on him that they wanted to speak about the man and woman.
“As soon as police contacted me everything resonated with me and I knew straight away what it was in relation to.”
The trial finished early on Wednesday due to the illness of a juror. It continues on Thursday in front of Judge Patricia Smyth and a jury.