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'I didn't go out to meet a rugby star': Alleged rape victim denies going into nightclub's VIP area with intention of meeting celebrities

Footage of student among sportsmen in club on night of alleged attack is shown

By Cate McCurry

A student allegedly raped by Ulster Rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding has denied that she was attracted to celebrities at the time of the incident.

Giving evidence on the fifth day at the trial of Jackson (26) and Olding (24), the 21-year-old woman told the court from behind a screen that she had no interest in Ulster rugby and had not been to a game.

Jackson, from Oakleigh Park Belfast, and Olding, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at Jackson’s house in south Belfast on June 28, 2016. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men have also been returned for trial on charges connected with the same incident.

Blane McIlroy (26), from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to one count of exposure, while Rory Harrison (25), from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The court was shown various CCTV clips from Ollie’s nightclub in Belfast taken hours before the alleged attack.

The then 19-year-old student had been to the nightclub with a group of friends on June 27, 2016 to celebrate the end of exams.

The video footage played to the court showed her in the presence of some Northern Ireland footballers in Ollie’s VIP area while some members of the Ulster Rugby team were nearby.

The footage also showed her briefly placing her hand on the knee of Northern Ireland star Kyle Lafferty and momentarily touching the arm of his team mate Will Grigg.

Jackson’s barrister Brendan Kelly QC took the young woman through the footage of her entering the VIP area shortly after 1am.

When questioned about her knowledge of who was in the VIP area, she denied knowing Jackson was there.

She added: “We didn’t go into the VIP area with the intention of meeting a rugby player, if that’s what you’re insinuating.”

She was further asked whether she knew Northern Ireland footballer Will Grigg.

“No, I don’t follow football,” she replied.

Mr Kelly stated that the team were having an after-party at a hotel in Holywood, however the woman claimed she was not invited to it.

She was further questioned about the end of the night when she was seen standing near the exit with some friends.

Mr Kelly asked: “Could it have been a discussion about an after-party?”

“I don’t think so,” she replied.

When asked: “But you knew who Paddy Jackson was?”, she responded: “I knew his name, yes, and I knew what he looked like, yes.”

The woman claims that after consensually kissing Jackson in a bedroom at his home, she was raped by him and Olding.

She also alleges that McIlroy walked into the bedroom naked with his penis in his hands. She stated that at this point she fled the bedroom and left the house.

The court was told that in a series of texts between the victim and her friend in the hours after the alleged attack, her friend had encouraged her to report the incident to police. The woman was initially reluctant, saying that when she mentioned “Ulster rugby” to police things would “go sour”.

In a reply, her friend suggested that she pretend she didn’t know they were “from rugby”.

“Pretend you have never seen them before,” the text said.

“Don’t bring up the Ulster team. Bring up names. What they do for a living is not relevant.”

Mr Kelly QC asked the woman if she had “watered down” either her following of rugby or knowledge of the people who played the sport. She replied: “Not at all.

“Mr Kelly, those words are not mine. I have no control over what my friend says.

“I have not watered down anything.”

When asked if she was attracted at that time to celebrities, she responded: “No, I didn’t even know who those people were.”

The young woman’s second police interview, which took place three weeks after the alleged incident, addressed details she said she had left out of her previous statement to police.

The court heard she had told a police officer that a female had walked into the bedroom when she was allegedly being assaulted by Jackson and Olding, and that she did not know if she had taken photographs.

“I was mortified at what was happening and I didn’t want to be identified if she was taking photos,” she said.

The high-profile case, which is scheduled to run for five weeks, is being heard by Judge Patricia Smyth.

Belfast Telegraph

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