Belfast Telegraph

Rape trial: Ireland rugby player Olding 'embarrassed' of 'immature boasting' WhatsApp messages

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

By Ashleigh McDonald

An Ulster and Ireland rugby player said today he was "embarrassed" about messages he posted in a WhatsApp group, saying it was "immature boasting" to friends.

Stuart Olding, from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, has denied forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him in the bedroom of his teammate Paddy Jackson's bedroom the day after the pair returned from a Ireland rugby tour of South Africa.

He also denied suggestions he viewed the woman "just a vehicle for your own sexual desires" and who was "no match" for two rugby players who were used to overpowering opponents on the field.

The 24-year old took to the witness stand at Belfast Crown Court, where he denied forcing the woman into any sexual activity. Instead, he claimed she beckoned him into the room then engaged in a consensual sex act.

The complainant, who was 19 at the time, claimed she was raped from behind by Jackson whilst being forced to perform oral sex on Jackson (26). The pair deny the charges, while Jackson has been charged with and denies an additional charge of sexual assault.

Also facing charges arising from the incident is 26-year old Blane McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road, who has been charged with, and denies, exposure, while Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, has been charged with and denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Under questioning from his barrister Frank O'Donoghue QC, Olding was asked about his version of what occurred in the bedroom of Jackson's Oakleigh Park home in the early hours of June 28, 2016.

Olding claimed that after showing a young woman who also attended the after-party to an upstairs room after she was sick, he walked into his friend's bedroom as he wanted to go to sleep. He said that after opening the door, he saw Jackson lying on his back, with the woman "on top of him and kissing him."

When Mr O'Donoghue asked "when you walked in, what was your reaction?", Olding replied "my reaction was, I had just intruded on two people kissing." He was then asked "what did you do?, to which he said "I stood at the door and turned to leave."

After  Mr O'Donoghue asked his client "did either of them (Jackson or the woman) do anything or say anything?" Olding said the woman "turned around and held out her had, as in an invitation to stay." When asked by Mr O'Donoghue "how sure are you of that?" the accused replied "100%".

He told the court and jury of eight men and three woman that he closed the door and began kissing the woman on the bed. Olding said: "After we stopped kissing, I lay down on the bed with my head on the pillow. She was kneeling over me. I'm not quite sure how my jeans became undone ... then oral sex started happening." He said this sexual activity lasted "between five and ten minutes".

Mr O'Donoghue then asked his client "did you force her in any way to perform oral sex upon you?", to which Olding replied "no, I did not force her in any way."

Olding was also asked if her remembered any "interruptions" during the incident. He said the first one was when the woman stopped giving him oral sex to ask for a condom, and the second interruption was when he asked her to take her top off.

When asked where Jackson was during all of this, he said his friend was lying on the bed. And when asked if he forced the woman's head, he said he "may have moved her hair out of the way ... but that was the extend of me touching her head."

Olding said the sex act came to an end when he ejaculated, and at that point he left the room, went to a bathroom to clean himself up, then slept in another room.

Mr O'Donoghue asked Olding "Was there anything in the course of that ten-minute period that made you believe that (the woman) was not consenting to anything that was taking place in that bedroom at that time?"

Olding replied "No, not at all. If I thought that, nothing would have started and nothing would have continued."

He was also questioned about a WhatsApp conversation he had with friends hours after the alleged sex attack. In a group chat, Olding posted a message which said 'we are all top shaggers.' When asked by Mr  O'Donoghue "why did you say that?", Olding replied: "I was referring to the events of the night before. It was just immature boasting to my friends."

Olding was also asked about messages between him and Jackson which referred to 'spitroasting'. He said it was a slang term for a threesome. He also wrote a message on the group which said 'it was like a merry-go-round at a carnival.'

When asked about this message, he responded: "I didn't even mean anything by that. It was said in an excited state. It's nonsense." And when Mr O'Donoghue asked Olding how he felt now reading those messages, he answered: "I feel very embarrassed sitting here reading them. I'm certainly not proud of talking like that, but I did it and I have done it and I shouldn't have done it."

Under cross-examination from prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth QC, Olding was questioned about his alcohol intake prior to the incident in the bedroom. This consisted of eight tins of beer, four pints of Guinness, two gin and tonics, four vodka lemonades, three shots, plus another beer back at Jackson's.

Asked by Mr Hedworth whether this was "a bit of a skinful", Olding said the consumption was over a long period, and that he had eaten twice during that period. He also accepted that while he was drunk, he was "in complete control" of his actions.

Mr Hedworth then suggested to Olding that when he and his friends got back to Jackson's house, drunk, he and Jackson "were not interested" in what the woman at the centre of the case "wanted to do or was prepared to do" as "she was just a vehicle for your own sexual desires that night." Olding replied "no, I wouldn't put it that way."

Pointing out that both Olding and Jackson were professional rugby players who used their skills and strength to overpower opponents on the field, Mr Hedworth asked Olding "what match, Mr Olding, is a 19-year old young woman going to be for the pair of you, if she decided to try and resist what you were doing?"

Olding replied "I don't know. If she had have resisted in any way, I would have had no problem with that. I wouldn't have carried on." Asked again if he thought she was any match for them, he replied "I don't think she would have been a match."

Mr Hedworth then took Olding through his police interviews which claimed - like he did from the witness box - that the woman gestured for him to come into the bedroom, then they started kissing.

Olding rejected suggestions this was "a work of fiction on your behalf, complete nonsense, fanciful." He also denied that when he was taken in for questioning two days after the incident, he and his co-accused had already met up to discuss what they were going to say about what sexual activity took place.

Mr Hedworth also asked Olding about Harrison's text messages with McIlroy in the hours after the incident, in which Harrison told McIlroy the woman was "in hysterics" and "it wasn't going to end well"

Olding said the pair didn't tell him anything about those exchanges when they met for lunch the next day. When Mr Hedworth asked "Were you cross with Mr Harrison for keeping it a secret?" Olding replied: "Yes"

"Not furious?" asked the prosecutor. Olding replied: "Well, yes". Mr Hedworth then asked "this brotherhood with your friends don't seem to be looking after you very well, do they?", to which he replied "No they didn't tell me."

"Are you telling the truth?" asked Mr Hedworth. "I am telling the truth,'' replied Olding, "I am telling the complete truth. He didn't mention it."

At the end of his cross examination, Mr Hedworth told Olding: "The reality is that you and your friends went beyond the point of what you knew was acceptable and were trying cover up happened on a drunken night out with you and Paddy Jackson and Blain McIlroy"

Olding replied: "That's not true. I am saying that everything that happened that night was completely consensual."

At hearing.

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