Sunday 22 April 2018

Key trial witness Florence declined big-money offers to sell her story

Dara Florence outside the courts in Belfast during the trial Main photo: Pacemaker
Dara Florence outside the courts in Belfast during the trial Main photo: Pacemaker
Dara Florence with Paddy Jackson

Christopher Woodhouse

A key witness in the Ulster rape trial turned down a big-money offer from media outlets in Ireland and the UK, it has emerged.

Dara Florence has also hit out at the reaction to her evidence on social media.

Ms Florence found herself at the centre of the trial which last week acquitted four men of all charges, including the rape charges faced by Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

However, the university student said she did not want to talk about her experience after the jury had delivered their dramatic not-guilty verdicts last week.

"I didn't really like what was written online. I feel I said what I needed to say," she told the 'Sunday Life' newspaper.

The 21-year-old said that the trial, which was one of the longest heard in Northern Ireland in recent times, "had not been nice" for anyone involved.

It is also understood that last week she turned down big-money offers from other media outlets across Ireland and the UK for her own story, preferring to let what she said in Belfast Crown Court stand as the sole legacy of her role in the case.

What started for her as a usual night out at Ollie's nightclub with friends, followed by a house party in Belfast, was dissected in minute detail during the nine-week trial. It may have been her evidence about what she saw when she walked into the bedroom at Mr Jackson's house that helped ensure the rugby players would walk free.

Concern

In the witness box, she said she "saw a threesome" and told how Mr Jackson asked her if she wanted "to join in".

She said she had no cause for concern during the night and eventually decided to go home with her friend.

Following her appearance at the trial, there was a torrent of vile comments online, with many attacking her reliability and even her appearance. However, others viewed her account as strong evidence that the complainant had engaged in consensual sex with both Mr Olding and Mr Jackson.

Irish Independent

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