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Monday 9 December 2019

'I'm sorry, I shouldn't have left you - I'll never leave you again' - Court hears text exchange between friend and alleged rape victim

Paddy Jackson arrives at Laganside Magistrates court. Photo: Pacemaker.
Paddy Jackson arrives at Laganside Magistrates court. Photo: Pacemaker.
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The young woman in the witness box was asked: "What was the last you heard of your friend?"

She explained she had been at Belfast City Hall waiting for a taxi after the nightclub when she had received a text.

"She'd gone to an afters at Paddy Jackson's and I sent a text, 'oh, random..,' shrugged the woman in the box.

That had been the end of her own night out, she told the court.

Unable to be named because of the risk of identifying the victim, the witness gave her evidence with the same uncertain, youthful informality as the rest of her peers who have been called to give evidence at this trial.

"The next contact please, when was that?" asked Toby Hedworth QC, for the prosecution, as he brought her through the events.

"That was the next morning, about eight or nine, early in the morning," she told him.

Her friend had sent her a text: "Worst night ever so I got raped", which was completed by "five upside down emojis", Mr Hedworth reminded her.

This text had already been put before the jury - but yesterday we heard the replies and the follow-ups as part of the larger body of communication between the two close friends, whom Brendan Kelly QC, for Paddy Jackson, later ascertained had first met as schoolgirls at the age of around 12.

"Do you share secrets?" Mr Kelly had asked her.

Given the current context of this friendship, the young woman had exhaled in a tiny wry breath.

"Like we all do with friends," Mr Kelly conceded gently.

"But most importantly you had nothing to hide and she had nothing to hide," he said.

She agreed this was true.

Mr Hedworth asked the young woman to continue to read the texts aloud.

As an exchange sent just hours after the alleged events, it was compelling.

It was also considerably emotive to hear how both young women had appeared to individually blame themselves for what had allegedly happened.

Rereading over them again, the young woman in the witness box sniffed and her voice momentarily shook.

"So, obviously, I was in shock," she told Mr Hedworth upon receiving that first text.

Her reply had read: "Oh my God... I'm so sorry... I should not have left you. I'll never leave you again."

But then the alleged victim had also blamed herself, saying: "Of course it was my fault."

She had then reassured her, saying: "This is in no way, shape or form your fault."

Her friend had then given her a brief account of what she claims had happened.

"Some of them just couldn't take no for an answer," she had said, with her friend replying: "Oh God... I feel sick."

"Paddy Jackson came behind me, he'd already tried it on earlier and I'd firmly told him where to go," she said.

"The next thing I know I'm bent over the bed," she said.

In further text messages read to the court, the complainant told her friend she felt like she had bruising on her genitals.

"I said, 'Jesus Christ'," the young woman in the witness box told the court, by now struggling to hold back her emotions.

"And I said, 'Jesus f****** Christ, were there more than one?"

"She said 'there were two and a third tried to get involved'."

"I said, 'Oh God... I'm so sorry'."

Her friend had then gone on to talk about the "really nice guy" who had taken her home.

Mr Hedworth put it to her that at that stage she had telephoned her but her friend hadn't picked up, instead sending a text saying she couldn't take a call because she didn't want anyone at home to hear.

"I said 'seriously, there's bruising and tearing, you have to get swabbed and go to the police'," she said.

On hearing her friend had allegedly said: "How many times does it take for a girl to say no before it sinks in," she had replied: "It will never sink in with them."

The alleged victim described a "rugby school boys' attitude times a million" and they both agreed the men were "scum".

"I feel so hollow. I f****** hate guys," the young woman had texted later on.

"I said 'no, you're not - this doesn't define you and your life from now on'," her friend told the court.

Irish Independent

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