Complainant in rape trial ‘distraught’ on return to friends

Four men on trial over incident alleged to have happened in the midlands in late 2016

A woman who says she was raped by five men in a car in the midlands was distraught, crying and looked traumatised when she eventually freed herself and was able to return to her friends, a trial has heard.

A friend of the complainant on Tuesday told the Central Criminal Court that when he met the then teenager in the early hours of December 27th, 2016 "she looked shaken".

“She was crying [and] she kept on saying there was six of them, there was nothing she could do,” the witness said.

He was giving evidence at the trial of four men accused of 18 counts of sexual assault, rape and false imprisonment of the woman. All have pleaded not guilty. A fifth man is not before the court.

None of the men or witnesses can be identified for legal reasons, nor any locations or other details that might lead to the woman being identified.

The witness told the court that he was in a friend's house when one of them received Facebook messages on their phone from the woman, whose company they had been in earlier that night.

Over several exchanges, she asked urgently for their address and instructions as to how to get there. After exchaning messages, the witness and a friend went outside to see if they could meet the woman approaching the property.

The witness said they heard her shouting and “it sounded distraught, crying”.

He said that when they met the woman “she looked traumatised” and her clothes were not properly on her. It was clear from what she said initially “that some kind of assault had happened”, he added.

Describing the same scene, the friend said in evidence that the woman was “in shock”.

“She’d no make-up on. Her hair was everywhere. She was in complete shock. We quickly found out what had happened,” he said.

‘Something bad’

Without saying precisely what had happened to her, the friend said that the woman “kept saying ‘I couldn’t stop them’.”

“I didn’t know what [had happened] but I knew [it was] something bad,” said the witness.

He also described events in a midland town late on St Stephen’s Day 2016 and into the early hours of December 27th. He and friends had been out in pubs, a nightclub and at some fast food outlets.

He described leaning against the window sill of a building on the opposite side of the road to a fast food outlet after he, the woman and some others had gotten food.

He noticed a blue VW Passat, with “kind of a boy racer look about it” going up and down the road. The car was “fairly packed”, he said, and the front and passenger near side windows were down. People in the car were shouting at anybody.

“They seemed to be shouting for attention,” said the first witness.

He said that the driver’s eye contact seemed to be directed towards the complainant, who was standing with him and their friends by the window sill.

Under cross-examination by Brendan Grehan SC for one of the accused, the witness agreed that he had not said this in his statement to gardaí.

"I'm suggesting it is something that came into your head out of nowhere," said Mr Grehan.

“It may have been a poor choice of words,” said the witness.

Continuing his evidence, the witness said that after eating their food the group went their separate ways.

Another witness gave evidence and described the same incident. The VW car had passed up and down “three or four times”, he said, the occupants shouting stuff and “basically trying to get noticed”. He said they were “doing laps” in the car which had tinted windows.

Screenshots

The first witness said that when the woman was brought into the house she described what had happened to her.

They then took screenshot photographs of the Facebook message exchange but the phone of the sender, identified in court as one of the accused, had since blocked them.

The woman’s friends then used a laptop belonging to someone ho had not been blocked to check the Facebook profile of the sender of the messages. They saw that a photograph on that person’s Facebook account “was the exact car that we had seen that night”, said the first witness.

A number of witnesses said the woman was not drunk either at the end of the night’s socialising or in the immediate aftermath of what she alleges happened to her.

Several also gave evidence that the woman was initially reluctant to go to gardaí, despite being urged by her friends, because she did not want to upset her parents.

The trial continues before the jury on Friday.