Belfast Telegraph

Rugby rape trial: Jury hear final evidence

The defence case in the rape trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players has concluded, Belfast Crown Court has been told.

The jury of eight men and three women have heard all the evidence relating to the high profile case which is in its seventh week.

Judge Patricia Smyth said the trial would enter its next phase where prosecution and defence legal teams would have an opportunity to address the jury on evidence they have heard.

Discharging them until Wednesday, the judge said: "Please do not reach any final views, even in your own mind, and do not discuss any verdict until you have heard everything."

Paddy Jackson, 26, of Belfast's Oakleigh Park and Stuart Olding, 25, from Ardenlee Street in the city deny raping the same woman after a night out in Belfast in June 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two others are also facing charges connected to the alleged sex attack.

Blane McIlroy, 26, of Royal Lodge Road in Belfast has pleaded not guilty to exposure while Rory Harrison, 25, from Belfast's Manse Road denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Harrison was the last of the four defendants to give evidence in his own defence.

He returned to the witness box of courtroom number 12 in the Laganside complex having given evidence during a special sitting on Saturday.

After almost two hours of cross examination by the prosecution, barrister Gavan Duffy QC confirmed the defence case was "formally closed".

Earlier, history graduate Harrison denied he was "delegated" to look after the complainant in the aftermath of the alleged attack.

Prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC put it to the court: "It was noted how much of a state she was in and you either of your own volition, or it was delegated by one of your friends, to get her home."

"No, that's not right," Harrison answered.

The rape is alleged to have happened during a party at Jackson's home after a night out at Ollies club in Belfast on June 28, 2016.

Harrison denied he had put "misplaced" loyalty above the interests of a young woman who had been "traumatised by what had been done to her" upstairs at Jackson's house.

"Regrettably, however good an upbringing you have had or whatever good family you undoubtedly come from, sadly you have put loyalty to your friends first," Mr Hedworth suggested.

Harrison replied: "I disagree with you."

The court has previously heard that Harrison had been living and working in Dublin in June 2016.

It was his 24th birthday when police arrived at his home to take a witness statement on June 30, 2016.

He denied delivering a "party line" during his statement and in subsequent interviews under caution in October of the same year.

The court heard how Harrison had memory gaps, possibly due to the level of intoxication.

He could not recall much about the complainant's physical appearance other than the colour of her hair but could remember her "staring" at Paddy Jackson and being "fixated" on him.

He could also remember her following Jackson upstairs, the court heard.

Harriston rejected prosecution suggestions that his account was designed to "row his friend Paddy Jackson" out of trouble.

Harrison did not disclose that the woman had sent a message hours after the alleged attack in which she wrote: "I know you must be mates with those guys but I didn't like them and what happened was not consensual which is why I was so upset."

Harrison's response to the message was, "Jesus, I don't know what to say," the court heard.

Having initially thought she may have been upset at being rejected by the Irish rugby star, he told the court his view changed to thinking she had done something she regretted.

"My initial reaction was shock but, as I have said before, based on the character of Patrick I did not think it was true," he said.

During the cross examination, Harrison attempted to explain a message in which he wrote: "Walked upstairs and there were more flutes than Twelfth of July."

"It was a joke in relation to Patrick being upstairs with a girl and Stuart being upstairs with a girl," he said.

"That there had been possible sexual activity between them."

Mr Hedworth put it to the court: "What it does describe is a scene where a girl is running out of a bedroom in a state of distress when a number of men are running about undressed with their penises to be seen.

"That would not be a joke. That would be accurate.

"If Patrick Jackson is standing around naked, if Blane McIlroy is standing about naked, if Stuart Olding has just run off to the bathroom to wipe himself then there are more flutes than Twelfth of July aren't there?"

Harrison answered: "There would be in that case, yes."

Earlier, the defendant rejected prosecution claims he had been engaged in "verbal fencing" with police officers and had provided a "sanitised version" of events to protect his friends.

He also denied "over-egging the pudding" in his account.

The court was told Harrison had no memory of a telephone conversation with Blane McIlroy minutes after he left the house.

A taxi driver Stephen Fisher has told the jury he thought Harrison had been speaking in code when he said 'she's not good'.

When asked for his reaction to the taxi driver's evidence, Harrison replied: "I was surprised because I don't know any code. None of the words I said sounded like code to me."

He also had "no memory" of the woman crying into him.

Meanwhile, in his re-examination Gavan Duffy QC asked if he had "lied at any stage".

Harrison answered: "No, I did not."

The case has been adjourned until Wednesday to facilitate legal argument.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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