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Ex-Scotland player Danielli a cocaine user who bugged family home, court hears as estranged wife appeals conviction

By Paul Higgins

Cocaine traces were found after a retired rugby international took drug tests, a court has heard.

Downpatrick County Court heard that as a result of tests in November and December 2015, "traces of cocaine" were found in the system of 37-year-old Simon Danielli.

Olivia Danielli, from Marino Station Road in Holywood, is appealing her conviction for causing criminal damage to her estranged husband's Jaguar XF car on August 9, 2015.

Following a contested hearing in the petty sessions Magistrates Court, Judge Mark Hamill fined her £500 and ordered her to pay the £1,800 cost of repairing the damage she caused, telling Mrs Danielli she "attacked the car to get back at him quite clearly and this, I am afraid, is nonsense on stilts".

In March this year the same judge convicted Simon Danielli of assaulting Michael Brown, a man he alleged was having an affair with his wife, and fined him £500.

However, he acquitted the ex-rugby star of assaulting Mrs Danielli during the same incident on March 11, 2015.

In the current proceedings, it is the Crown's case that - enraged over a babysitting issue - Mrs Danielli used the metal handle of an umbrella to break the wing mirror off, which she then threw at the bonnet of the luxury motor.

The defence contends, however, that while Mr Danielli was the registered keeper of the car and had paid a deposit for it, the top-of-the-range Jaguar was bought and paid for by his wife's family's businesses - which are run by her father, multi-millionaire property developer Seamus Jennings - so she should be acquitted, as it's legally impossible to cause criminal damage to your own belongings.

Taking to the witness box for the first day of the hearing last week, Mr Danielli alleged his estranged wife had "kneed me in the privates" and then struck him to the side of the head before leaving his property at The Coaches in Holywood and attacking his car parked outside, an attack that he recorded on his mobile phone.

Mrs Danielli had originally faced a charge of common assault, but that was later dropped by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS).

Under cross-examination by defence QC Eugene Grant for the second day, Mr Danielli, who played for Bath, Ulster and Scotland before retiring in 2012, was incredulous at being questioned over the drug tests, declaring the lawyer's motivation was "for the media, that's all you have done it for".

The court had heard that while he claimed his estranged wife had "looked like she was on drugs" when she attacked his car in August 2015, her urine samples and tests on a hair follicle proved negative.

Mr Grant asked the witness if he now wanted to retract his comments over his wife's appearance, given that she had tested negative, whereas he had tested positive for cocaine.

But Mr Danielli stated that he stood by his comments.

Mr Grant put to him that he had referred his wife to Social Services.

However, he denied he had, claiming it was an automatic referral after he told police she looked like she was on drugs and their son was in her Porsche Cayenne when she attacked his car.

As a result, Social Services advised the couple to undergo drug tests.

"On 17 November, 2015 you tested positive for cocaine, isn't that right?" Mr Grant said to Mr Danielli. He replied, claiming the results were negative, but conceded "there was traces of cocaine in my system".

Mr Grant put to him that a further test on December 9 also showed a "trace of cocaine" and Mr Danielli conceded simply: "Yes."

The former winger was incredulous when defence counsel asked him about recording or bugging devices he had allegedly placed in the matrimonial home.

Previously described as "distinctly creepy" behaviour, the court has heard the defence team is in possession of 6,000 audio recordings.

Mr Grant revealed 30-year-old mother-of-three Mrs Danielli had uncovered "a memory stick that related to recording devices that show you had been recording conversations from the start of the relationship, if not the whole marriage".

Mr Danielli told the lawyer, however, "that's ridiculous", and denied he had recorded "any conversation before August 2014" or had placed "bugging material into the house".

Again, Mr Grant asked Mr Danielli if he was now denying "that you were involved in bugging this house before the physical separation" and that he had "recorded everything said in the house".

"This is purely for the media," the retired rugby star exclaimed, before prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers objected to the line of questioning. However, Judge Brian Sherrard allowed it after the defence submitted it concerned Mr Danielli's credibility.

Again he denied a similar further suggestion over bugging devices, telling Mr Grant "absolutely not, and other things have been said in other proceedings and it's only to be sensational for the media".

In Mr Danielli's trial for common assault in March, the court heard that after assaulting Mr Brown, the ex-winger had gone to the family home where he was seen pulling wires out. He denied at his trial they had been bugging devices.

Similarly, yesterday the 6ft 2in retired rugby international maintained they were "absolutely not" listening devices.

Mr Grant produced to Mr Danielli two receipts from June 2014 for "a voice activated recorder" shaped like a plug adapter and a "USB recorder stick", reminding the witness that he was "still under oath".

"Do you want to reflect on your earlier answer under oath that you were not involved in recording your wife, or indeed, any other person in the house?" asked Mr Grant.

But Mr Danielli replied: "No. Like I said, the primary purpose wasn't what you asked me earlier."

He claimed he could remotely call into the device using a telephone so he used it in the children's room to check "everything was okay with them".

According to Mr Grant, the witness apologised to his mother-in-law for placing bugging devices in the house in August 2014 and promised her "it would not happen again".

But Mr Danielli said that was "incorrect", and claimed that "both her and the rest of her family are lying".

The last two witnesses to be called to give evidence before the prosecution closed its case were two police officers who went to Mr Danielli's home just after the incident.

While Constable McDonald said his colleague Constable Edgar was taking the lead regarding speaking to Mr Danielli, the officer heard the rugby player allege Mrs Danielli had hit him in the head but that, at that stage, he had not mentioned being kneed in the privates.

Similarly, Mr Edgar told the court Mr Danielli had not mentioned that aspect of the alleged assault.

The prosecution case has not closed, and Mr Grant confirmed that when the appeal next reconvenes on July 24, Mrs Danielli will give evidence on her own behalf.

The case continues.

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