Belfast Telegraph

Jackson and Olding's alleged victim and her friend searched for rape crisis centre, jury hears

WARNING: These reports contain details which some readers might find upsetting

By Claire O'Boyle

A close friend of a woman who claims she was raped by two rugby players has told a court how the pair searched Belfast for the rape crisis centre in the hours after the alleged attack - only to discover it had closed down.

The woman, who had been with the complainant on the night in question, said the discovery left her "completely disheartened". Belfast Crown Court also heard a series of messages between the friends on the morning of June 28, 2016, in which the alleged victim - aged 19 at the time - said she had been raped, adding: "They are scum. It's that schoolboy rugby attitude times a million."

Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (24) deny raping the woman. Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy (26) is charged with one count of exposure. Rory Harrison (25) is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Both deny the charges against them.

The woman at the centre of the trial arrived home at around 5.15am after sharing a taxi with Harrison, the court heard.

At 9.51am she texted her friend to say: "Worst night ever, so I got raped."

When asked by prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC about her response to her friend's allegations, the witness told the court she was "in shock".

"I said I was so sorry," she said. "I told her I shouldn't have left her. I said I'd never leave her again."

The court also heard how the complainant texted her friend claiming she had sustained injuries and that she had been "nipping and scraping Paddy's arm" during the alleged assault.

As the messages continued, the friend asked the complainant: "How did you make it out?"

She replied saying a fourth man got her a taxi, adding: "I was bawling the whole way home."

Yesterday, the witness read out a message in which she told her friend of seven years: "If there's bruising and tearing you've got to go to the police." The woman told the jury how the complainant had been reluctant to take on "Ulster Rugby", and that she was concerned the men would say she had consented to sex.

In another message, the complainant said: "I'd report it if I knew they'd get done but they won't," adding it would be "embarrassing" and lead to "unnecessary stress for me".

The witness said she told her friend that while the men were "known to some people, they're not the be-all and end-all of the earth, a lot of people won't know who they are."

She also told the court how she had advised the complainant to get a "full screening" and "counselling" even if she didn't want "anything official".

"This doesn't define you and your life from now on," she told her.

The court heard how the witness told her friend the situation was "beyond serious", adding: "you can't just deal with this on your own".

The woman said she "really wanted" her friend to go to rape crisis and "arrived at her house to try and get her out".

Together they went to Donegall Street in Belfast city centre, the court heard, where they believed the centre was.

The witness said: "We couldn't find it so I went to the Brook (a sexual health facility) and buzzed to ask where rape crisis was, and was told it had closed down... I was completely disheartened, but the person on the other end of the buzzer said to come up. They were really good and took over from there."

From the witness box, the friend said she and the woman in question had been partying in the VIP area of Ollie's nightclub late on June 27, 2016, and into the early hours of the next day, and that the complainant texted her later to say she was at an after-party in Jackson's south Belfast home.

When asked about her friend's level of intoxication before leaving the nightclub, the witness said they had both been drinking, but the woman was "of sound mind ... she could look after herself".

Judge Patricia Smyth has repeatedly asked the jury of nine men and three women to wait until all the evidence has been heard before coming to final conclusions.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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