Saturday 21 April 2018

Nicola Anderson at rugby players' rape trial: Speaking out 'was the best decision I ever made', says accuser

Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.
Ireland and Ulster rugby players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding arriving at Belfast's Laganside courts.
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

THAT this was an ordeal was all too painfully apparent.

For almost an hour and a half on the stand, the young woman gave her testimony. Many times, she wept. But many times she displayed a steely determination.

She had chosen to speak out, she claimed, because it could have been her friend who stood outside the nightclub that night.

It could have been her sister.

“It was the best decision I have made,” she said, her chin held high.

A heavy blue curtain had been drawn around the stand before the young woman’s face emerged on screen in the courtroom. 

Judge Patricia Smyth introduced her to the legal teams and in a small subdued voice, she said good morning.

From their seats in the glass-walled dock, the four defendants gazed intently at her on the screen. Dressed in a jumper and light coloured chinos, Paddy Jackson had a large notebook on his knee in which he wrote copiously throughout the morning.

Stuart Olding wore a grey jacket and dark trousers, while Blane McIlroy and Rory Harrison both wore the dark suits they had worn the previous day.

From having been relatively full the previous day, the public seating area was now heaving with supporters and family members.

The night she described would have been a typical one – until it had all gone wrong, according to her allegations.

A night out to celebrate the end of her A Level repeat exams and then an invitation – she could not recall from whom – to a house party.

She had taken her shoes off once she got there because her feet were sore, she said.

“It was by no means a party,” she told the court, describing the music played too low and how she had gone into the kitchen to get a drink of water only to be unable to locate the glasses.

She had consensually kissed Mr Jackson upstairs, she conceded, but he tried to undo her trousers and she told him she was not interested. The atmosphere changed, she claimed.

“I decided to leave,” she said, breaking down in tears, her hand before her face.

She put her shoes back on but couldn’t find her clutch bag, she told the court.

Realising she must have left it upstairs, she went back up. The next thing she knew, Mr Jackson was at the foot of the bed.

Then began a nightmarish account of what she claims happened that night.

She spoke of being numb as the alleged rape by Mr Jackson began.

That rape was then compounded by an alleged oral rape by Mr Olding.

Then came an attempt by a “completely naked” Mr McIlroy to join in.

At this point, her fighting instinct kicked in, she said.

She left but had to go back to the house to get her mobile phone.

Rory Harrison had offered to get a taxi home with her. She was “an absolute mess” but he had comforted her.

She felt she couldn’t tell her parents what happened – her father had recently had a serious heart attack.

But she sought medical help – and told the police.

“It’s not ok. No one should have to go through what I went through,” she said. “I’m not going to stand for it.”

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