Woman breaks down as she describes ‘rape by rugby players’

A woman allegedly raped by two Ireland and Ulster rugby players broke down as she gave graphic detail about the case.

The woman appeared for the first time at Belfast Crown Court on Wednesday.

Wiping away tears, she told the jury of nine men and three women: “Rape is a game of power and control.

“They rely on your silence. The only way you take the power back is when you actually do something about it.”

Stuart Olding, 24, and Paddy Jackson, 26, are accused of raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Jackson faces a further charge of sexual assault.

Both men deny the charges.

The woman told the court she was first attacked by Jackson.

She cried as she recalled: “He grabbed my trousers by the waistband. He undid them and pulled them down to my knees.

“You know, see in that moment you think you are going to kick and scream and fight, but it doesn’t work like that. Look, you just freeze.

“I knew where this was going but it happened so quickly. He sort of pushed me down on the bed. But because I was wearing white trousers, they were quite tight, and when he pulled them down they caught on my knees and I couldn’t actually move.

“Next thing I remember is being face down on the bed and he is having sex with me.”

Two other men are also on trial on charges connected with the alleged incident on June 28, 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Both have also pleaded not guilty.

The woman was questioned for more than an hour by prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC.

She said the alleged incident happened in a bedroom at Jackson’s home after a night out Ollie’s, a club in Belfast’s Merchant Hotel.

The woman, who is not a rugby fan and was not aware the players had been in the nightclub, had drunk one and a half large glasses of wine and three double vodkas during the course of the night.

She had nothing alcoholic at Jackson’s, the court heard.

It emerged she had kissed Jackson in the same bedroom earlier in the night, but had made it clear she was not interested in anything else.

When asked if Jackson had tried to take things further at that time, she replied no.

It was when she returned to the bedroom to retrieve her clutch bag because she wanted to go home that the alleged rape happened.

She added: “Verbally, I had already told him I did not want this going any further. There was nothing physically about me that said to keep this going.

“He knew I did not want this to happen and he kept going.”

At some point, she claimed, the bedroom door opened and Stuart Olding walked in.

“My heart just sank,” the woman said. “I knew what was going to happen.

“I look at Patrick Jackson straight in the eyes and said ‘please no, not him as well’.”

She said Olding forced her to give him oral sex and that “someone” was “pushing” on her head.

“I presume it was Stuart but I don’t actually know who it was,” the woman added.

As the alleged attack was taking place, it was claimed the door opened again and a female voice was heard.

The woman feared she was going to be filmed.

She said: “I immediately turned my head away. I was so worried I was going to be filmed or something, because they were all taking loads of photos downstairs.”

Throughout proceedings the four defendants, who arrived at court separately, sat alongside each other in the dock.

Jackson, who was dressed in a navy blazer, jumper and open-neck shirt, took notes.

The public gallery was packed to capacity.

The case, which is in its third day, is scheduled to last for five weeks.

At one point in proceedings Judge Patricia Smyth asked if the complainant wanted a break, however, she declined.

When asked by the prosecution if anything else happened in the bedroom, she replied: “Patrick Jackson pushed my knees apart, he literally tried to get his whole hand up me. He wouldn’t stop.

“I was trying to bend over to grab his wrist to weaken his grip. The more I bent over the more it hurt.

“I knew I was bleeding and stuff. He just wouldn’t stop.”

It was when Blane McIlroy allegedly appeared naked at the door, the woman said that she claimed her “fight instincts” kicked in.

“I thought, this is not happening again,” she said.

The jury was told the woman felt intimidated.

“His whole stance and demeanour was so aggressive. It was at that point my fight instincts kicked in. There was not a chance this was going to happen again.”

A curtain was placed around the witness box, blocking the woman’s view of most of the court.

The defendants, media and people in the public gallery were able to watch her giving evidence on a screen.

She claimed that as she fled, stuffing her underwear in her pocket, she told them: “How many times does it take for a girl to say no for it to sink in.”

The woman said she ran downstairs and out of the house but had to return to get her mobile telephone in order to call a taxi.

It was at that point that Rory Harrison approached, she claimed.

The woman said: “I was running from the house when the front door opened and Rory Harrison came after me.

“At first I panicked but then I realised he was asking if I was okay.

“I obviously wasn’t okay. I was crying a lot and he would have seen the blood on my trousers and stuff like that.”

Harrison and the woman shared a taxi, and when they arrived at her house he asked if there were others in the house and would not accept payment for the cab.

She added: “I was actually very grateful. He really couldn’t have done enough for me.

“I have absolutely no complaint with Rory Harrison.”

During the hearing the woman was also questioned about her initial reluctance to report the incident to the police.

“I wasn’t going to go to the police,” she said. “You just don’t think they are going to believe you.

“I really did not want to take things further because you are so embarrassed this has even happened to you.

“I didn’t want people finding out. I knew if I went to the police I would have to say something to my family at some point.”

She confided in two friends and after attending a rape crisis centre in Belfast, decided to go to the police.

She told the court she was glad to have spoken out.

“It’s the best decision I made,” she said.

Ireland and Ulster captain Rory Best attended Wednesday’s hearing, as did Ulster team-mates Iain Henderson, Craig Gilroy and Kyle McCall.