Wednesday 19 September 2018

Rugby rape trial: Friend told alleged victim she would 'blackmail' attacker if she was raped

Paddy Jackson leaves Laganside Magistrates. Photo: Pacemaker
Paddy Jackson leaves Laganside Magistrates. Photo: Pacemaker

Claire O'Boyle

A WITNESS in the rape trial of two Irish rugby players texted the alleged victim to say she would "blackmail" her attacker if she was ever attacked - less than two weeks before the complainant says she was raped, a court has heard.

In a series of text messages, the woman, who had known the complainant for seven years before the alleged incident, said: "If I ever get raped I am not going to the police."

She added she would "deal with" the man herself. She wrote: "You've just got to find a way to blackmail or stab them or something."

Ulster and Ireland rugby players Paddy Jackson (26) and Stuart Olding (24) deny raping a woman in June 2016. Mr Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Giving evidence for a second day, the witness said her texts were "obviously not serious" and were written for "humour purposes". Belfast Crown Court heard how the friends had exchanged a series of messages about rape on June 15, 2016 - 12 days before the complainant alleges Mr Jackson and Mr Olding attacked her.

Mr Jackson's barrister Brendan Kelly QC said the alleged victim quoted rape statistics, telling the witness that "nine out of 10 rapes in the UK go unreported".

Stuart Olding. Photo: PA
Stuart Olding. Photo: PA

The witness replied in a text: "I have heard of loads of people being raped. It's scary."

When asked by Mr Kelly to clarify her remarks, the witness said: "I guess it's for the same reason as what's happening in this room right now.

"It's quite horrible, it's daunting, you get blamed."

On the reference to "blackmail", she said: "That was quite clearly a joke."

Blane McIlroy. Photo: PA
Blane McIlroy. Photo: PA

The jury of nine men and three women also heard how the complainant, after the alleged incident on June 27, 2016, said in a text she wanted to speak to someone "legally" about the matter. Her friend said: "Statistics generally are not in your favour and I presumed she was going to speak to someone about that," adding: "I think she wanted to get actual legal advice."

Asked whether the pair had ever discussed the importance of telling the truth in reporting the incident to authorities, she replied: "I assumed she was telling the truth. She wouldn't lie to me."

Another friend told the court of the woman's initial reluctance to go to the police, but said that after breaking down during a trip to the cinema to take her mind off what she claims had happened, she decided to tell the police to stop it happening to someone else.

A third friend told the court of her reaction to the complainant's initial concerns about taking on "Ulster Rugby". In a text the friend said: "Pretend you don't know they are from Ulster Rugby. Pretend you'd never seen them before."

Rory Harrison. Photo: PA
Rory Harrison. Photo: PA

Explaining her message to the jury, the witness said: "The meaning behind that was it doesn't matter what someone's profession is. Rape is rape."

Meanwhile, the first police officer to speak to the complainant suspected members of the Ulster Rugby team might have been involved before any names were given.

The police constable said the woman was reluctant to identify her alleged attackers because she was concerned about their "high profile". He recalled that when she said she had been at Ollie's nightclub, he suspected Ulster players were involved as he was aware rugby players frequented it.

Also charged are Blane Mc- Ilroy (26) who faces one charge of exposure and Rory Harrison (25) who is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Both deny the charges. The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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