Belfast Telegraph

Rugby star Danielli a ‘reprobate’ who committed perjury, court told as his estranged wife appeals conviction for damaging car

By Paul Higgins

Retired rugby star Simon Danielli faces a potential prosecution for allegedly lying under oath, a court was told yesterday.

During closing submissions on behalf of 30-year-old Olivia Danielli, who is appealing a conviction for causing criminal damage to a Jaguar XF car, defence lawyer Eugene Grant claimed the credibility of the only prosecution witness - her estranged husband Simon - had been "shattered".

"We say he is a proven liar," the lawyer said, claiming Mr Danielli had testified that he did not buy or use covert surveillance equipment to record his wife in the matrimonial home when there was evidence he had done just that.

Mr Grant said a file of evidence was being compiled and an indictment prepared to request the police to investigate and the PPS to prosecute the former rugby player on three counts of perjury in the Crown Court.

Olivia Danielli, a former model and mother-of-three from Marino Station Road in Holywood, is appealing against her conviction in the Magistrates Court for causing criminal damage to the car on August 9, 2015.

It is the Crown case that, in an argument over a babysitting issue, she knocked the wing mirror off with an umbrella and threw it across the bonnet of the car, causing around £1,800 of damage.

However, the defence claimed that while Simon Danielli had daily use of the £38,000 car and was the registered keeper, it was in fact owned by his wife, as she had used money from the family business to buy it.

Her father Shamus Jennings is a multi-millionaire property developer who regularly features in Irish rich lists and, in 2012, was said to be worth an estimated £26m.

In her closing submissions yesterday, prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers said it was clear the car belonged to Simon Danielli, as he had the only set of keys, still drives it, is the registered keeper responsible for taxing and insuring the car, and had paid for the damage his wife caused.

"Even if the appellant has an interest in the property, if some other person does too then the potential of being guilty is in existence," she submitted to Judge Brian Sherrard.

Last April Magistrates Court judge Mark Hamill fined Mrs Danielli £500 and ordered her to pay the £1,800 cost of repairing the damage she caused, telling her she "attacked the car to get back at him quite clearly and this, I am afraid, is nonsense on stilts".

A month earlier the same judge convicted Simon Danielli of assaulting Michael Brown, a man he alleged was having an affair with his wife, and fined him £500, but acquitted the ex-rugby star of assaulting his former partner arising from the same incident on March 11, 2015.

Taking the witness box on the first day of the hearing last June, 37-year-old Danielli alleged his estranged wife had "kneed me in the privates" and then struck him on the side of the head before leaving his property at The Coaches, also in Holywood, and attacking his car parked outside, an attack that he recorded on his mobile phone.

He maintained that since his marriage disintegrated and his job with the Jennings family business came to an end after the incident in March, he owned the car, paid for its upkeep, tax and insurance.

Under cross-examination from Mr Grant, the court heard that while the retired winger claimed his wife "looked like she was on drugs" at the time of the incident, she provided urine and hair samples which when tested proved negative for drugs.

After social services became involved with the family, Simon Danielli was also tested in November and December 2015 and "traces of cocaine" were uncovered in his samples.

Danielli, who played for Bath, Ulster and Scotland before retiring from professional rugby for medical reasons in 2012, was incredulous at being questioned over the drugs tests, claiming the lawyer's motivation was "for the media".

The former winger reacted similarly when defence counsel asked him about recording or bugging devices he had allegedly placed in the matrimonial home.

Previously described as "distinctly creepy" behaviour, the court heard the defence team were in possession of 6,000 audio recordings and Mr Grant revealed that Mrs Danielli had uncovered a memory stick that showed he had been recording conversations from the start of the relationship, if not the whole marriage.

Simon Danielli described the claims as "ridiculous".

He denied that he had recorded any conversation before August 2014 or had placed "bugging material into the house".

Again Mr Grant asked him if he was now denying "that you were involved in bugging this house before the physical separation" and that he had "recorded everything said in the house".

"This is purely for the media," the retired rugby star said.

The court was told that he had bought two voice-activated adapter plugs, a CSB listening device which calls the owner when it hears noise, allowing the person to listen in, a USB voice recorder stick, and a pen camera HD recorder

Four of the devices, the court heard, were bought from the Online Spy Shop where, as highlighted by Mr Grant, the sellers declare: "Is your partner playing away? Get the proof...!"

The CSB listening device was purchased from Amazon.

Mr Danielli later claimed he had used the plug-in, voice-activated recording device to monitor his sons bedroom, while the device, designed to look like a USB stick, was used to record university lectures.

When Mrs Danielli gave evidence on her own behalf, she accepted she made a "deliberate decision" to damage the car with a steel umbrella in August 2015, but that when she knocked the wing mirror off: "I was taking my frustration out on my own car."

She claimed that, as far as she was concerned, she owned the car as "I paid for it through the money that I have in my dad's business".

Mrs Danielli further claimed that at the start of 2015, after her husband asked her to return the £23,000 engagement ring he bought, she demanded that he hand back the Jaguar and a £6,000 Rolex watch she bought him.

To date, she told the court, neither had been returned.

In closing submissions yesterday, prosecutor Mrs Ievers said Mrs Danielli's claims that she decided to take her frustrations out on what she believed was her car were "beyond belief", and was instead "a deliberate act of revenge".

She submitted that the defence highlighting Mr Danielli's drug results and the bugging devices were "ancillary issues" to the case

The central issue, said the lawyer, was who had custody and control of the Jaguar car, which Simon Danielli had "at all times".

Defence lawyer Mr Grant argued that the issue of the drugs testing and Simon Danielli's evidence on surveillance devices went to his credibility, which "is at the heart of the case".

He reminded the court that Mr Danielli had repeatedly denied buying or using covert surveillance devices to record conversations in the marital home and argued that disclosure documents and 6,000 audio recordings uncovered on his laptop suggested otherwise.

The lawyer also reminded the judge that following those disclosures, Judge Sherrard himself had given advice to Simon Danielli to seek legal guidance over his evidence.

"It's no surprise that he has not been produced by the prosecution as a witness to rebut that proposition," said the lawyer.

"There's an avalanche of separate items that show this man has lied to this court on a significant number of occasions," said Mr Grant.

He submitted that when Mrs Danielli handed back her engagement ring and demanded the return of the keys to the Jaguar in or around January 2015, the couple "were in the business of splitting the marital assets".

She was, in her mind at that stage, claimed the lawyer, taking back "constructive possession" of the Jaguar and as such could not be guilty of causing criminal damage.

Mr Grant said Simon Danielli was a "reprobate" who had raised an allegation over drug use but that the "bitter twist of irony" was that his client's tests were negative while Mr Danielli's were positive.

Judge Sherrard adjourned the case so he could consider his verdict.

Belfast Telegraph

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