Belfast Telegraph

Ex-Ulster rugby star Danielli discovered 'explicit' texts between wife and alleged lover, court hears

By Paul Higgins

A retired rugby ace accused of assaulting his wife and the man he suspected was her lover has told a court he uncovered "explicit" text messages between the two.

Giving evidence at his trial in Newtownards Magistrates Court, 37-year-old Simon Danielli claimed that despite him and Olivia Danielli supposedly working on their marriage, she was arranging a secret "rendezvous" on the night of the alleged assault.

"My wife told me that day she had a pole dancing class at 7.30 - but I saw on her phone that wasn't to be the case," he told defence QC Mark Mulholland.

He said his estranged wife had saved Michael Browne's number under a female name but he knew it was a pseudonym as his photograph was in the corner.

"Contrary to going to this pole dancing class they were going to have a rendezvous. I just wanted to see for myself, as final closure," said Mr Danielli.

He described to the court that when he saw them emerge from Mr Browne's home arm in arm "I was angry, I was disappointed, I was upset".

"Angry to the point where you beat him up?" asked the lawyer. Bbut Mr Danielli denied that, declaring: "Absolutely not."

"I'm not a violent person. I didn't go there to beat him or hit him. I didn't punch him or kick him," claimed the retired winger.

Former Ulster and Scotland rugby star Mr Danielli, with an address at The Coaches in Holywood, is on trial accused of assaulting Mrs Danielli and her friend Mr Browne, as well as damaging his wife's phone on March 11, 2015.

It is the Crown case that Mr Danielli (37) kicked and punched Mr Browne on the ground, shoved his wife to the ground twice and smashed her iPhone.

Yesterday defence applications to have the charges of assaulting Mrs Danielli and damaging her phone were dismissed by District Judge Mark Hamill.

Mr Danielli yesterday outlined to the court how he was born in Scotland but raised in Cheltenham and had a Bachelors and Masters degree from Oxford in philosophy and theology.

He told Mr Mulholland the couple got married in 2009, but by June 2014 were attending marriage counselling.

Although he left the marital home in September, he said he did not view it as "a separation" as he was still regularly staying over most nights of the week.

Mr Danielli said he had not stayed the night before the incident, but Mrs Danielli "was sending me messages, talking about 'naked night', sending photographs and other similar descriptions."

The court has already heard that as part of a 10-point plan of reconciliation, Mrs Danielli had asked her husband not to have any more affairs. Yesterday, he said the only thing he asked of her was that "were she to have a compulsion to have any more affairs that she would tell me, and the marriage would end".

Having suspected Mrs Danielli and Mr Browne had been having an affair since that January, Mr Danielli said when he spotted them in the street that evening "I knew my marriage was over".

It is accepted that Mr Danielli ran after Mr Browne, and yesterday he claimed it was a "natural reaction".

"He ran. I chased him but I wish I hadn't," Mr Danielli claimed. "In some ways I wish I hadn't even gone there that day."

The 6ft 4in former winger emphatically told the court: "I didn't punch him, I didn't kick him." He added: "There was a minor altercation, a minor scuffle, but at no stage did I kick or punch him."

He also denied pushing his wife to the ground or throwing her phone away. He claimed that at most he "gently pushed" at Mr Browne.

"I was yelling at him: 'Are you proud of yourself, are you proud of what you have done?'

"It's almost like I wanted him to apologise for what he had done," explained Mr Danielli, claiming that "at no stage during this whole time of being there did I engage with Olivia in any single way".

The trial has also heard Mrs Danielli claim that back at the marital home on Marino Station Road in Bangor, Mr Danielli ripped "bugging devices" from the walls and again pushed her to the ground.

Her husband claimed these were media storage devices, stereo and internet cables, as "they were my possessions and as far as I was concerned the marriage was now finally over".

Mr Danielli claimed that when his wife got back, she was "enraged" and screaming at him to "get out of her house".

Having "snatched" his kit bag from him, he claimed Mrs Danielli went upstairs. He followed her but could see "that she was on a live phone connection with 'Mummy', clearly on an uncracked screen"

"She's by the bedroom door at the top of the stairs and she starts saying: 'Get off me, get off me, stop hitting me'.

"I was about five to 10 metres away and I asked her: 'What are you doing?'," he told his lawyer, claiming that while he was "rational" his wife was "raining punches on the back of my head" as he went downstairs.

Mr Danielli labelled some of the alleged evidence against him "an outright lie".

Under cross-examination, Mr Danielli conceded he knew about the supposed rendezvous because he had been "snooping" through his wife's mobile phone.

"I suspected she was going against the one reconciliation point I requested of having further affairs," he told prosecution lawyer Joseph Murphy, but denied being "livid" when his suspicions were apparently confirmed.

"I was angry, I was upset, I was disappointed, but it wasn't like this was the first time, so while I was upset... it wasn't like it was a total shock to me," said Mr Danielli.

Mr Murphy asked Mr Danielli if he had any explanation for Mr Browne's severe back eye. While he conceded "it looks bad... all I can say is that I didn't punch him or kick him".

The lawyer suggested to Mr Danielli that, contrary to his evidence, he was the one who was "in a rage", who had injured Mr Browne with kicks and punches.

Adjourning the case for a week, Judge Hamill held aloft the image of Mr Browne's black eye and suggested to Mr Danielli's defence team they may want to address the issue of how his eye was hurt in an apparent fall "with no abrasions to his nose or cheek or forehead".

The case continues.

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