Trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players accused of rape gets underway

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny the charges

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson (26) is accused of raping a young student at his home in Oakleigh Park in south Belfast following a night out in June 2016, Belfast Crown Court has heard.

His club and country teammate Stuart Olding (24) from Ardenlee Street in Belfast is also accused of raping the same woman at Mr Jackson’s home on the same date.

A third man, Blane McIlroy (26) from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast is also on trial accused of intentionally exposing himself to the woman while a fourth man, Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road in Belfast, is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information on various dates between June 27th 2016 and October 5th 2016.

A jury was sworn in to hear the trial yesterday and today, Toby Hedworth QC for the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) gave them an overview of the prosecution’s case against the four accused men.

He said the case concerned a young woman who went to an after-party with young sportsmen.

On the evening of June 27th 2016, he said she went to Ollie's nightclub at the Merchant Hotel in Belfast where she went to the VIP section with some friends.

Some Ulster rugby players and some Northern Ireland footballers were present, he said.

Afterwards, he said she agreed to go to a house party back at Mr Jackson's house with three other girls and three of his friends.

Mr Hedworth said it was not clear who actually invited her.

At some stage, he said she went upstairs with Mr Jackson to his bedroom where there was some consensual kissing.

He said it would be claimed that she made it plain to him that she would go no further. Nothing untoward occurred at this point, the court heard.

After returning downstairs, Mr Hedworth said she then decided to leave because she felt the atmosphere had changed.

He told the jury she had to go back upstairs to retrieve a clutch bag she left in Mr Jackson's bedroom, and that when she did he followed her up and pushed her onto the bed before allegedly pulling her trousers and pants down before raping her.

Mr Hedworth said she does not suggest she tried to fight him off but described being 'numb' throughout.

Readers may find some of the following details distressing

The jury heard it will be alleged that Mr Olding entered the room at some point, and the complainant recalls saying to Mr Jackson 'please not him as well' before Mr Olding allegedly positioned himself on the bed and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

At 4.27am, Mr Hedworth said a text was sent from Blane McIlroy's phone to Mr Jackson asking: 'is there a possibility of a threesome' and it will be alleged that he entered the room, stark naked and without receiving a reply to his text, and holding his penis.

The woman managed to get up and leave the room and in response to an alleged comment made by Mr McIlroy on her way out, she claims she said 'how many times does it take for a girl to say no before it sinks in.'

Mr Hedworth told the jurors they would hear evidence that the fourth accused man, Rory Harrison, brought the woman home in a taxi and walked her up to her door to make sure there was someone at home.

In a witness statement he gave after the woman made a complaint to police, he said he did not notice anything peculiar about her appearance, demeanour or clothing on the way home.

Mr Hedworth said he anticipated the taxi driver would say that she was 'very upset'.

When describing the party to police, Mr Harrison maintained that she 'appeared to be staring at and fixated with Paddy'.

He said that Paddy went to bed alone about an hour after they arrived and that she followed him upstairs five minutes later.

Mr Hedworth told the jury it would be up to them to consider the truthfulness of that claim and Mr Harrison’s purpose in making it.

WhatsApp messages

Mr Hedworth also told the jury they would be shown a series of WhatsApp communications from later that morning which the prosecution believe give a true flavour of the attitude of the defendants.

At 11.17am Mr. Olding texts: 'we are all top shaggers' and adds 'there was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.'

Jackson is alleged to have immediately replied with the text 'there was a lot of spit' to which Olding is accused of replying 'it was like a merry-go-round at a carnival'.

Following his arrest two days later, Paddy Jackson provided a prepared statement in which he stated 'I strenuously deny these allegations. I am shocked and horrified they have been made against me'.

Subsequently he claimed they kissed and lay on his bed that night and she undid his trousers and performed oral sex on him, but he said they did not have vaginal sex because he did not have a condom.

All four men deny the charges and the trial is due to hear from the complainant when it resumes tomorrow morning.