Belfast Telegraph

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Rugby rape trial: 'My pal Paddy is no rapist' says Rory Harrison

Friend of players charged with rape insists Jackson is last person he would ever associate with a sex attack

By Chris Woodhouse

A friend of the two Ulster rugby players accused of rape has said he doesn't believe the woman's claim they attacked her.

Rory Harrison told Belfast Crown Court yesterday that Paddy Jackson would be "the last person in the world" to rape somebody.

Harrison is one of the four men who have been charged over the alleged sex attack in south Belfast on June 28, 2016.

Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding deny charges of rape while Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Blane McIlroy is accused of exposure and Harrison is charged with perverting the course of justice. Both men deny the offences.

Harrison (25) brought the woman home in a taxi from Jackson's house following the alleged sexual assault by Olding and Jackson.

The four men and four women had made their way back there after drinking in Ollie's nightclub in Belfast.

Harrison accepted he was "fairly drunk" given the amount of drink he had at McIlroy's home earlier that day, at Cutter's Wharf and Ollie's.

He was initially interviewed by police as a potential witness but he was later charged as cops thought he was trying to cover up for his friends.

Harrison, the last of the four men to take the stand, was giving evidence yesterday on what was a highly unusual Saturday sitting of the headline-grabbing trial.

Taking Harrison through his recollection of the night and days after, his barrister, Gavin Duffy QC, asked him what his reaction was when the woman sent him a message saying the sex with Olding and Jackson wasn't consensual.

"My initial reaction was shock that something had happened that she wasn't consenting to," he said.

"I have known Patrick since I was eight or nine and he is the last person in the world who would rape someone."

When asked why he thought the woman, then aged 19, had claimed the two men had raped her, he said: "I didn't believe it. I thought maybe she had done something and regretted it."

Harrison also told the court that he did not inform Jackson or Olding when they met for lunch the day after as he "did not want to worry him" about something he had "absolutely no faith was true".

Mr Duffy also asked him about how he came to give the woman a lift home in a taxi that night.

He told the court that when he decided to leave he went to say goodbye to Jackson and saw her standing at the top of the stairs.

"Nothing drew my attention to her. I walked past her and put my head around Paddy's door," he said.

He explained that Jackson was lying on the far right side of the bed and he "just sort of grumbled" when he said goodbye to him. Harrison said he then went to see where Olding was and found him lying asleep in the upstairs living room on one side of a sofa and another woman from the party on the other.

He then said he went back downstairs and sat down on a sofa when the woman came into the room.

Mr Duffy asked him if he observed anything about her to which he replied: "She just seemed a bit quiet, she seemed a little bit upset."

Harrison said they didn't talk but he may have asked her if she was okay, he then told her he would take her home in a taxi to which she agreed.

They then walked out onto the main road to hail down a cab and he was asked about her demeanour at this stage.

"Definitely a bit more upset," he said and that she was crying.

Mr Duffy asked him about the woman's version of events in which she claimed she ran out of the house and he came out after her.

"That's not correct," said Harrison.

He was also questioned about a phone call he made to McIlroy during the taxi journey which the taxi driver described in his evidence to the court as "speaking in code".

The driver told the court he thought he heard Harrison say that the woman was "not good".

"Was there anything coded about that remark?" asked Mr Duffy. "Nothing," replied Harrison. He asked him if there was any indication as to why the woman was so upset.

"I thought she had maybe been rejected by Paddy," said Harrison, who also denied that he was involved in an attempt to "manage" the woman.

Mr Duffy also asked him about messages he exchanged with McIlroy the day after the alleged rape.

Harrison said his message about "hilarious scenes" referred to members of the Northern Ireland football team who were in Ollie's that night and a Facebook photo of himself with the player Will Grigg.

"Everyone was singing, 'Will Grigg's on fire' and some people were taking their tops off," he said.

He denied it was a reference to the rape or sexual assault.

"Would you ever think that?" asked Mr Duffy.

Harrison replied: "Absolutely not."

Another message Harrison sent said: "Walked upstairs and there were more flutes than July 12."

He said this was a joke because he assumed there was consensual sexual activity between Jackson and the woman and Olding and a different woman from the party.

"It was an attempt at humour," explained Harrison.

"If you honestly believed that a rape had taken place at Mr Jackson's house would you have joked about it?" asked Mr Duffy.

"No, I would not," he said.

Later exchanges between them after Olding and Jackson had been arrested were also read to the court.

Mr Duffy asked him about one message in which he told McIlroy to "leave" his phone if going to speak to officers at a police station.

"I was aware that police seize phones. It is pretty inconvenient when you lose numbers and photographs," Harrison said.

"Were you trying to impede an investigation or conceal anything?" asked Mr Duffy.

"No, I was not," Harrison said.

Police called to Harrison's home on his birthday, June 30, to take a witness statement from him and he told the court he had answered all of their questions truthfully.

But in October of that year, he was asked to come to a police station for what he was told was a clarification of his statement.

When he arrived he was told he was to be interviewed under caution for perverting the course of justice.

He didn't have a lawyer present but phoned his father, who is a solicitor, who advised him not to take the offer of the duty solicitor and that he would arrange somebody to represent him.

Harrison was also asked to provide his mobile phone which he didn't have with him but returned to hand over the next day.

It was revealed to the court that between the time of his statement and his arrest by police, he had to reset his phone due to a fault that couldn't be fixed and that caused him to lose his data.

Harrison told the court he had taken steps to retrieve what was saved on his phone but it was impossible.

He sent a message to a friend after doing this saying that it was "like losing my first-born child".

Mr Duffy asked him: "Have you done anything to pervert the course of justice?"

"No, I have not," he said and further denied he attempted to conceal any criminal activity.

Last week also saw Jackson and Olding take to the witness box to give evidence.

Jackson said if he knew the woman was upset he would have gone to help her.

"I know I would have done that. The last thing I would want is a girl crying and leaving my house," he told the court.

"I would have completely freaked out. I would have gone to help her. If I had known she was upset I would have tried to contact her."

The court was told that the woman had first followed Jackson upstairs to his bedroom where they kissed but they both went back downstairs after she asked him if he knew his name but he didn't.

She then allegedly began scratching his arm while downstairs which Jackson described as "quite nice".

When they went upstairs for a second time they kissed again before she allegedly started performing oral sex on him.

"She was doing it, she was enjoying it," Jackson told the court.

Character witnesses also gave evidence with a doctor who is a family friend of Jackson's and went to school with him saying he was "caring and considerate".

In his evidence, Olding said when he walked in on the woman performing oral sex on Jackson that she stopped and held out her hand to him to stay before performing oral sex on him.

He also said he was "not proud" of the graphic messages shared in a WhatsApp group the next day in which he boasted of him and Jackson being "top shaggers".

During his cross-examination by Crown QC Toby Hedworth, McIlroy was accused of giving a "preposterous" account of his involvement.

He denied shoving his penis at the woman when he entered the bedroom and said he did not try to stop her leaving.

McIlroy claimed the woman masturbated him and performed oral sex on him.

He denied he had concocted a story with his co-accused.

The trial continues.

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