Wednesday 26 September 2018

Former Ulster player Paddy Jackson is back with lawyer ex-girlfriend

Ex-Ireland and Ulster player spotted hand-in-hand with former longtime girlfriend Laura McCrea

The couple had been in a relationship since 2014 but they broke up about a month before rape allegations
The couple had been in a relationship since 2014 but they broke up about a month before rape allegations

Chris Woodhouse and Allison Bray

Former Ulster rugby star Paddy Jackson is back with the lawyer girlfriend he split from just weeks before he was accused of rape.

The ex-Ireland and Ulster player was spotted hand-in-hand with his former longtime girlfriend Laura McCrea, three months after he was acquitted of the alleged sex attack at his south Belfast home.

The couple were spotted holding hands during a trip to London last weekend.

Ms McCrea (25), the daughter of a Presbyterian church minister, had just returned from a holiday in Montenegro, where she celebrated her birthday. The couple had been in a relationship since 2014 but they broke up about a month before the night in June 2016 when Jackson and Ulster team-mate Stuart Olding were accused of raping a young woman whom they had met at Ollie’s nightclub in Belfast’s exclusive Merchant Hotel.

Laura McCrea is the daughter of a Presbyterian church minister
Laura McCrea is the daughter of a Presbyterian church minister

Now Ms McCrea, a solicitor based in Belfast, is back by Jackson’s side as he tries to rebuild his life in the wake of the high-profile trial which led to his contracts with the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ulster Rugby being terminated.

At his trial, Jackson’s lawyer told how the player’s life had been “blighted” for almost two years by the rape allegations. Ms McCrea’s father, Rev Philip McCrea, minister at Rosemary Presbyterian Church in North Belfast, declined to comment.

Previously, Jackson joined the McCreas at family parties in the church and posed for pictures, which were shared both by Ms McCrea and her sister on social media during the relationship. In one photo, Ms McCrea shared a loved-up snap of them lying together on a sun lounger on a beach at an exclusive hotel in Barbados.

Ms McCrea attended Rainey Endowed School and Belfast Royal Academy before going on to study law at the University of Ulster. She now works for a top Belfast law firm having started as a trainee in 2016. She previously worked at the Hollister clothes shop at Victoria Square, also in Belfast.

Laura is back by Jacksons side as he tries to rebuild his life
Laura is back by Jacksons side as he tries to rebuild his life

Ms McCrea was dating Jackson until around a month before the events of June 28, 2016. She told a newspaper earlier this year she had “stepped

back” from their relationship at the time. She was also at the Merchant Hotel on the same night while Jackson and his friends were in the venue’s basement nightclub, Ollie’s.

Earlier that year she joined Jackson on a trip to the fivestar Sandy Lane resort in Barbados, owned by racehorse magnate JP McManus, with other members of the Irish rugby team.

Jackson and Olding were found not guilty of rape after a nine-week trial. However, they apologised for their behaviour and for the messages they had sent in the days after.

“I am also truly sorry for engaging in a WhatsApp group chat which was degrading and offensive and I apologise unreservedly for this,” said Jackson in the wake of his acquittal in the case. “The criticism of my behaviour is fully justified and I know I have betrayed the values of my family and those of the wider public,” he said in a statement following the trial.

Olding said that while he disagreed with the woman’s version of events, he was sorry for any hurt he had caused. Both Jackson and Olding had their contracts terminated by the IRFU amid the fallout from the trial. The pair have since agreed moves to France – with Olding to join Brive and Jackson signing for Perpignan.

Herald

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