Friday 21 September 2018

Harrison accused of providing 'sanitised version' of events in police interview, rape trial hears

Rory Harrison. Photo: PA
Rory Harrison. Photo: PA
Blane McIlroy arrives at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of one count of exposure, in connection with an incident in which two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars are accused of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire...A
Paddy Jackson Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Stuart Olding Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Ashleigh McDonald

A jury presiding over a trial in Belfast heard denials today from two men accused of involvement in a sexual assault of a student.

Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding (24) denies one count of rape, while co-accused Blane McIlroy denies one count of exposure.

As the trial at Belfast Crown Court entered its fifth week, the jury heard transcripts of police interviews conducted with both men, days after the alleged incident.

A then 19-year old woman claimed she was raped by Jackson, whilst being made to perform oral sex on Olding, in the bedroom of Jackson's Oakleigh Park home in the early hours of June 28, 2016.

She claimed that during the incident, McIlroy came into the bedroom naked and with his penis in his hand, and acted aggressively towards her.

The jury also heard a police interview conducted with Harrison, where he was accused of providing officers with a "sanitised version" of what happened that night.

An officer told Harrison he knew the woman had claimed what happened with his friends was "not consensual", and that he collected them that afternoon when they met for lunch and "provided your friends with an opportunity to corroborate their stories".

The jury firstly heard audio interviews conducted with Olding two days after the alleged sex attack.

From Ardenlee Street, Olding confirmed to police he had been at his friend's house for an after-party.

He said that after walking into his friend's bedroom, he saw the woman straddling Jackson. He also said she beckoned him to stay, and performed oral sex on him.

Paddy Jackson Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Paddy Jackson Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Telling Olding "her version of events is entirely different to that", a police officer then told him the allegations she made against him.

Olding rejected suggestions he penetrated her with his penis and said he "didn't see Paddy do that either."

When asked if he remembered pulling her head towards and putting his penis in her mouth, Olding told police "I don't recall that happening at all." And when asked by the officer "what made you believe she was consenting to oral sex?", Olding replied: "She was doing it and I wasn't forcing her to do it."

During his police interview, Olding was also asked if he and Jackson discussed what occurred when they woke up that morning. He said: "We just talked about what happened. We were pretty hungover... we were drunk when it happened."

Stuart Olding Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images
Stuart Olding Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

Just before his final interview ended, Olding again denied forcing her head to his penis, and denied putting any pressure on her. The interview ended with his solictor telling police: "You can tell from his attitude that he categorically denies any involvement of any kind in these allegations."

Also arrested the same night was 26-year old Blane McIlroy, from Royal Lodge Road. His audio recordings were played to the court.

He told police that after going upstairs and looking for somewhere to sleep, he walked into Jackson's room, where he saw his friend and the girl naked on the bed. He said Jackson asked him in "for a chat", and that he sat on the edge of the bed and said 'what have you two been up to? Did you have a good night?'

When asked how the woman seemed, McIlroy told the officer: "She seemed fine. There were no signs to me she was in any kind of distress or discomfort." He also described her as "giddy" and "not embarrassed".

McIlroy claimed that as she lay on the bed, she instigated sexual activity with him, that Jackson was "still fooling around with her" but it stopped as neither of them had a condom. McIlroy also claimed he left the room to try and find a condom, and when he got back to the bedroom, she was getting dressed.

Blane McIlroy arrives at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of one count of exposure, in connection with an incident in which two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars are accused of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire...A
Blane McIlroy arrives at Belfast Crown Court where he is on trial accused of one count of exposure, in connection with an incident in which two Ireland and Ulster rugby stars are accused of raping a woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire...A

When asked again about her demeanour, McIlroy said he heard her say "this isn't really me. I usually don't have one-night stands. This isn't like me." He added she "seemed fine... she was not crying or distressed."

The jury heard he expressed shock when Harrison, from Manse Road in Belfast, called him to tell him Jackson and Olding had been taken in for questioning. When asked of Harrison told him what for, McIlory said: "He said 'a girl from Monday night might have cried rape' is what he said."

And when he was asked by an officer 'did that girl behave in any way as to suggest she didn't want this to happen?", McIlroy replied: "No. She never once said 'stop' or 'I don't want to do this.' He also said "she didn't push us away."

McIlroy also claimed that earlier at the afterparty, before the girl went upstairs, she tried to kiss him, but he was interested in another woman at the party.

Harrison was initially treated simply as a witness in the case, and a statement was taken from him in the days after the incident. However, as the case developed, police suspicions were aroused, and Harrison was arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice in October 2016.

Transcripts of three interviews conducted with Harrison were read to the court, and the jury heard the accused deny concealing information and lying in a bid to protect his friends.

At the start of the interviews, an officer told Harrison "police are not happy with some aspects of the statement you made" earlier in the year.

Amongst aspects he was questioned about was the the comment he made to Harrison about a woman crying rape. When asked why, out of all the charges, he speculated his friends would be accused of rape, he said "I don't even recall saying that to him."

When pressed, Harrison said he "guessed" as it involved "high profile sports stars" and he had seen similar cases on the news.

He was also asked a message the woman sent him hours after he left her home in a taxi. In the message, she told Harrison 'I know you must be mates with those guys but I don't like them. And what happened was not consensual which is why I was so upset."

When asked why he didn't tell police about this text when he was being treated as a witness, Harrison said he didn't know what had happened in the bedroom and didn't want to speculate. He also said he was never asked about contact between himself and the woman, adding "if I had been asked, I would have answered that fully."

Accused by police of providing police with a "sanitised version" and "trying to help your friends by omitting crucial information", Harrison denied this.

He also denied police suggestions there was a "deliberate act" on his part that, once she disclosed to him that she had been raped, he collected his friends that lunchtime and "provided them with an opportunity to corroborate their stories."

Belfast Telegraph

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