'The night happened the way it did and I woke up happy, and happy with what happened': Laurence White reports
Jurors at the trial of two Ulster and Ireland rugby players charged with the rape of a 19-year-old woman heard from the defendants this week. Laurence White reports
While the jurors in the trial of two Ulster and Ireland rugby players on rape charges have already heard how they strongly denied the offence in interviews with police, this week gave the 11-member jury - one member has been dismissed because of illness - the opportunity to hear from the defendants' own mouths their version of what happened on that June night two years ago.
First into the witness box was Paddy Jackson, who maintained that all sexual activity with the-then 19-year-old woman was consensual. Jackson, who, along with Stuart Olding, had just returned from a tour of South Africa with the Irish rugby team, denied that he was a violent person, saying he had never been in a fight and had never thrown a punch.
On the night in question, he said he and the woman were flirting and she had followed him upstairs to his bedroom, where they began kissing passionately. At one stage, she pulled away slightly and asked if Jackson knew her name. "I didn't respond, because it was awkward. I didn't know her name. I tried to shrug it off. She asked again and I said I didn't know her name. She pulled away. She was doing it in a jokey way," he told the court.
They went downstairs again, but the woman began running her fingers down his arm. "I think it was her way of getting my attention again. She got my attention again. It was quite nice when she did it."
Jackson said that when he went back to his bedroom the woman followed him. They began kissing and then moved to the bed. He added that, at one stage, she undid his trousers and pulled them and his boxers down to his knees before performing oral sex on him.
Asked by a lawyer if there were any signs that the complainant was enjoying what was happening, he replied: "She was doing it, she was enjoying it."
Jackson said Olding walked in on them while the woman was performing oral sex: "He walked in on us and it was a bit embarrassing. I kind of smiled at him and waved at him. It's a bit stupid, but that's what happened. It was kind of like, 'Hi, look what's happening'."
Jackson admitted he had intended to have intercourse with the woman, but she asked if he had a condom and he could not find one. Asked if he would have looked after the woman if he had known she was leaving his house upset, he said: "I know I would have done that. The last thing I would want is a girl crying and leaving my house. I would have completely freaked out. I would have gone to help her. If I had known she was upset, I would have tried to contact her."
Jackson said he was disappointed that his friends did not tell him that the woman had sent a message to Rory Harrison saying that what happened was "not consensual". The four had met up in a cafe the day after the incident. "Sitting here, it's disappointing. I trust them. If they did not tell me, they didn't think it was as serious as it is now. Rory is a very nice guy. I can guarantee, if he was worried, he didn't want to cause me alarm or distress."
Asked if he had hoped the night would end by having sex with someone, Jackson said: "The night happened the way it did and I woke up happy, and happy with what happened."
He said he would have contacted the woman, or the police, if he had known she thought what had happened was not consensual. He also denied that the four had closed ranks.
He also described graphic text messages sent by him the day after the night in question as "just a stupid, immature conversation".
The court also heard details of Jackson's personality. Outside rugby, he liked to relax with family, friends and the family dog, and watch films. He also liked to draw and sketch and draws a lot of superheroes. He also enjoys making rap music and mime and liked to send friends "stupid videos", which attracted a big online audience when he became well-known.
He revealed that he used to babysit for Ulster and Ireland rugby captain Rory Best, and was good friends with other internationals Iain Henderson and Craig Gilroy.
A doctor who went to school with Jackson and who is a family friend described him as "caring and considerate" and said she had never seen him lose his temper. "He's a good guy," she added.
The second defendant to enter the witness box was Olding. He told the court he was embarrassed by graphic messages he had sent to friends on the day after the party in Jackson's home. He had boasted of him and Jackson being "top shaggers" and "spit roasting".
"I am certainly not proud of talking like that, but I did it. I have done it and I shouldn't have done it," he said.
Olding, who admitted he had taken 23 drinks during that June day and evening, said he had stumbled upon Jackson and the woman when he had gone to the bedroom hoping to go to bed after his partying.
He said the couple were kissing, but he did not notice any oral sex taking place when he entered the room.
Olding added that the woman held out her hand as an invitation for him to stay and then they began kissing passionately. She then performed oral sex on him.
Asked by counsel if he had forced her to do this act, he denied it and said she had not said anything to suggest that she didn't want to perform the act, which lasted between five and 10 minutes.
Olding said he did not know what, if any, sexual activity Jackson was engaged in while he was in the room.
Asked, "Was there anything in that 10-minute period that made you believe (the alleged victim) was not consenting?" he replied: "No. Not at all. If I thought it was not (consensual) nothing would have happened. Nothing would have started and nothing would have continued."
Olding admitted that the woman would not have been able to resist a pair of rugby players if she objected to what they were doing, but added: "If she had tried to resist in any way, I would have had no problem with that. I wouldn't have carried on."
During cross-examination, he again said he did not see Jackson and the woman engaged in oral sex and denied that his version of her calling him over to the bed was "a work of fiction".
Olding also said he had not noticed another woman opening the door of the bedroom. She had told the court previously that she saw the complainant and the two defendants engaged in sexual activity on the bed and that Jackson had spoken to her. Olding said: "I didn't register at all."
He said he was furious that Rory Harrison had not told him of the text message he received from the complainant saying that the sexual activity she engaged in was not consensual.
The court had also heard that, in the hours after the incident, Harrison had told Blane McIlroy the woman was "in hysterics" and "it wasn't going to end well".
Prosecution lawyer Toby Hedworth QC said: "The brotherhood (Olding's friends) wasn't looking after you very well. Unless you are not telling these ladies and gentlemen (the jury) the truth."
Olding replied: "I'm telling the complete truth. They didn't mention anything to do with it."
Ending his cross-examination, Mr Hedworth said: "The reality is that you and your friends went beyond the point of what you knew was acceptable and were trying to cover up what happened on a drunken night out with you and Paddy Jackson and Blane McIlroy."
Olding replied: "That's not true. I am saying that everything that happened that night was completely consensual."
Next into the witness box was McIlroy, who denied that he walked into the bedroom naked and asked the woman to have sex with him.
He also denied shoving his penis in her face and blocking the door to prevent her leaving. He maintained that any sexual activity was consensual and ended because he could not find a condom.
Asked about the text from Harrison saying the woman was "in hysterics", McIlroy said: "I didn't, I honestly didn't take it seriously. I saw (the woman) leave and I knew she was not in hysterics."
He also rejected any suggestion that he, Jackson, Harrison and Olding met in a cafe the next day to "concoct a lying account of what happened".
McIlroy said that, after being contacted by police, he "basically told my parents everything that happened from Paddy's house to the next day. My dad just said, 'Go and tell the truth' and that's what happened".
He admitted he had deleted five texts between him and Harrison which mentioned the woman, because he had panicked after the police telephoned him.
The case continues today.