Belfast Telegraph

Ex-rugby player Danielli 'kneed in privates' by wife who then attacked £32k Jaguar, court told

By Paul Higgins

A retired rugby player claimed his estranged wife "kneed me in the private parts" and punched him in the face before attacking his car with a steel-handled umbrella.

Giving evidence against his wife at Downpatrick County Court, Simon Danielli claimed that having allegedly struck him and "shoved" her way into his flat, Olivia Danielli left again when she got a phone call.

"I made a flippant comment that 'there's another of your boyfriends calling' at which point she said 'no I go out with Ulster players now and they all think you're a d***'," said Mr Danielli (37), a winger for Ulster and Scotland before he retired in 2012.

He further claimed when he saw his estranged wife lift the steel-handled umbrella from her Porsche Cayenne, "I guess it was the trigger to record" what was about to happen on his mobile phone. "I didn't know what was going to happen and she started hacking away at the wing mirror. She didn't look like she was all there," he said.

"She hacked the wing mirror off and threw it on the bonnet with a mixture of aggression and then placidly went back to the driver's side of her car, got in and off she went."

Under cross-examination from defence QC Eugene Grant, it was put to Mr Danielli that despite making two police statements "there was not one word or scintilla" about him being kneed, with the lawyer suggesting that "it's just not true".

While he conceded that aspect of the incident does not feature in the statements, he said he did tell the police about it.

His wife Olivia, from the Marino Station Road, Holywood and who celebrates her 30th birthday today, is appealing a petty sessions court conviction for causing criminal damage to Mr Danielli's luxury Jaguar XF car on August 9, 2015. 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".

In March this year, the same judge convicted Simon Danielli of assaulting Michael Browne, a man he alleged was having an affair with his wife, and fined him £500 but acquitted him of assaulting Mrs Danielli in the same incident in March 2015. He has not appealed that conviction.

In the witness box yesterday, Mr Danielli said he was at his home at The Coaches, also in Holywood, when there was "really loud banging at the door" just after 7pm.

When he opened the door, his estranged wife was there "wanting to know the babysitter's name" and he could see the couple's youngest son in her car parked a short distance away.

He told prosecutor Laura Ievers that arising from the assault incident, "there's an ongoing non-molestation order in place so technically, we are not supposed to speak to each other, so I tried to cut it short", claiming it was then that Mrs Danielli assaulted him.

"It was a very alarming situation with my son in the car," he said, adding that when she got a phone call "presumably from Michael Browne", that's when he made the "flippant comment that there's another of your boyfriends calling".

Having described what happened to his Jaguar XF, Mr Danielli said he called the police "very quickly" and officers who attended recommended he went to hospital to have his jaw checked.

He confirmed to Mrs Ievers that at the time the car was insured in his name, he had both sets of keys and no one else had driven it apart from himself.

It is the defence case that while Mr Danielli paid £450 as a deposit for the car the rest, £31,818, was paid out in money held by the Jennings' family's various business accounts.

Property developer Seamus Jennings, Mrs Danielli's father, is one of Northern Ireland's wealthiest men, who in 2012, was said to be worth £67m.

The majority of Mr Grant's cross-examination centred on where the money to pay for the Jaguar, which Mr Danielli still drives, had come from and on messages and emails the witness had sent to his father-in-law and a friend called Gareth Atkinson where he said "obviously owe the Mrs £30k."

Mr Danielli claimed there was "never, ever mention that there was a debt to be repaid or that ownership or anything was being argued about" until the marriage break up in March 2015.

Mr Grant asked him if he had paid anything towards the car, whether by tax or insurance, before June 30, 2015. Mr Danielli said "no" he had not and further agreed no monies directly attributable to him had been paid towards the car before that date.

While Mr Grant highlighted an email Mr Danielli sent to Mr Jennings where he said he knew "the money was coming out of Olivia's pot, so we will pay back the money as soon as we can", Mr Danielli claimed he was told "on many occasions subsequently" that it was a gift.

Taking him through his assets, as documented in a parallel court case, the lawyer revealed Mr Danielli received a "six figure salary" during the years he played for Ulster until he retired in 2012, and was paid £24,000 during his employment with his father-in-law's companies, owned a modest property portfolio and received £60,000 per year from a rugby insurance policy.

"Taking account of that whole list of assets did it ever occur to you, Mr Danielli, that you should be repaying the Jennings family, whether it was Olivia's pot or Mr Jennings', for the £31,818 put into this Jag?" asked the lawyer.

"I would've spent that and far more funding Olivia's lifestyle," claimed Mr Danielli, but Mr Grant retorted that "it is your wife's case that she made it very, very clear to you that the monies for this car was a loan."

"Absolutely not," said Mr Danielli, who will continue his cross-examination next Tuesday.

The case continues.

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