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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Rugby stars on trial for rape allegedly boasted about exploits on WhatsApp

Written by Lesley-Anne McKeown

Two Ireland and Ulster rugby players accused of rape boasted on WhatsApp about their sexual exploits, a court has been told.

Stuart Olding, 24, and Paddy Jackson, 26, who deny the charges, are accused of attacking a woman at Jackson's home in south Belfast in June 2016. Jackson faces a further charge of sexual assault.

Details of messages were given to the jury of nine men and three women on the opening day of the trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Olding allegedly wrote on WhatsApp "We are all top shaggers" and "There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas".

He later added: "It was like a merry-go-around at a carnival."

Paddy Jackson (pictured) allegedly replied: "There was a lot of spit."

Two other men have also been charged.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from 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.

Opening the case, prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC, said: "It involves a young woman going to an after party with other females at the home of a well-known sportsman, Patrick Jackson, the first defendant.

"He was accompanied by the remaining defendants, who were all close friends of his.

"The night ended, we say, with the first two defendants engaging in sexual activity with that young woman against her wishes, as they well knew or as they simply were not interested in considering. The third was hoping to join in."

Mr Hedworth warned jurors: "As this case concerns a young woman going to an after-party with young sportsmen, there is the danger that stereotypical views are taken of what such a complainant should expect.

"Equally, there may be stereotypical views of the behaviour of young men, particularly when in drink and with their friends."

The defendants, who arrived separately, sat together in the dock listening intently as Mr Hedworth said: "Effectively, this group of friends were keen to have sexual activity with

this young woman, regardless of whether or not she was prepared to do so.

"When she was able to escape from what was being done to her, the fourth defendant, Rory Harrison, appeared to give her help and support.

"But in the event it turned out, we suggest, that his true loyalty was to his friends."

The court heard how the woman had been with friends in the VIP area of Ollie's nightclub in Belfast's Merchant Hotel.

Also present were members of the Ulster rugby team and some Northern Ireland footballers.

At closing time, about 2.30am, the woman was standing outside with a small number of women who she did not know but who were friends of a close friend.

She decided to go with them to a party at Jackson's home and at some stage during the night she and Jackson went upstairs to his bedroom.

Mr Hedworth said: "She does recall that at one stage she was in that room and was consensually kissing him but had made it plain to him that she would go no further."

They returned downstairs and later she decided to leave "because the atmosphere changed", returning to the bedroom to get her bag.

Mr Hedworth said: "She had not returned up the stairs with Jackson but he had followed her up and into bedroom, where he pushed her onto the bed before pulling her trousers and pants down before penetrating her vagina with his penis from behind.

"He had not in any way sought her consent and indeed had used force to achieve his aim."

The jury was told the alleged victim did not try to fight Jackson off but was "numb".

When Olding entered the room, it was claimed she recalled saying: "Please not him as well."

Mr Hedworth said: "Olding then positioned himself on the bed, on which she was face down still being raped by Jackson, so that his penis was in front of her, and forced her head down onto it.

"She was choking and gagging."

At some point a text message was sent by McIlroy asking: "Is there a possibility of a threesome?"

Mr Hedworth said: "That was not replied to, but at a point when Jackson and Olding were desisting from their attack the door of the bedroom opened and McIlroy entered, stark naked and holding his penis."

The court heard how the woman could not face the prospect of further attack and quickly tried to flee.

Mr Hedworth said: "He said 'you f****d these guys why not me?' to which she responded 'how many times does it take for a girl to say no before it sinks in."

The jury was told that the WhatsApp messages, posted later that morning, have a "true flavour" of the attitude of the defendants.

In a text message to a friend the following day, the woman said she had been "raped by three Ulster f*****g rugby scum."

In another message, she said: "I was entirely fine going back after ... some of them just couldn't take no for an answer."

But she also expressed reluctance to go to police, saying: "Thing is I would report it if I knew they would get done.

"But they won't. And that's unnecessary stress for me. It's also humiliating...

"It will be my word against theirs, not like they have cctv in their house and because there's more of them and they'll all have the same fabricated story about me being some slut who was up for it."

But she did go to the police and the taxi driver who took her and Rory Harrison home was traced.

Mr Hedworth said: "When police contacted him he immediately knew who they wanted to know about because the girl had been so upset."

Concluding his comments, the barrister reminded jurors it was for the prosecution to prove guilt and not for the accused to prove innocence.

"Anything less than being sure of guilt and you acquit. But equally, if you are sure of guilt you convict."

The defendants have pleaded not guilty and are on bail.

The case, before Judge Patricia Smyth, is scheduled to last five weeks.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Pictured (c) Liam McBurney / PA Wire.