Around dinner tables in Ireland people are talking about the Belfast rape trial.
During the nine-week trial of Paddy Jackson, 26, Stuart Olding, 25 and Blane McIlroy, 26, all Ulster rugby players and their friend Rory Harrison, 25, every day saw a lengthy queue outside the court room to hear the confronting details of an incident that took place in June, 2016.
In Ireland, the complainant, in this case a young woman, is entitled to life-long anonymity – something particularly important in such a high profile case. But given the public was granted access to the rape trial, her name was soon discussed and published on social media.
The woman, who is now 21 years old, told the court that on the 27th of June, 2016, she completed her exams and decided to go out with friends to celebrate.
According to the Irish Times she spoke “confidently and precisely”.
First, she said, she went to a friend’s house and there she had a glass of wine. Later she decided to go to Ollie’s nightclub, a popular venue in Belfast. Along with a group of friends, the woman found herself in the VIP area, surrounded by the Northern Ireland football team who had just returned from France, and Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who had just returned from South Africa after representing the Irish squad.
As the night wound up, the woman said she was invited to an after-party by a friend and caught a taxi with three women and Jackson. She alleges Jackson simply informed the driver, “I’m Paddy Jackson”, and the driver immediately knew who he was – a detail Jackson vehemently denies.
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Once they arrived, the woman spoke more to Jackson, and accompanied him upstairs to his bedroom. According to her testimony, they began to kiss consensually, but when he attempted to undo the button on her pants she said she did not want to go any further and left his bedroom.
After this encounter, the woman told the court “the attitude had shifted” so she decided to go home but was unable to find her bag. Eventually, she found it in Jackson’s room. Jackson, she said, had followed her upstairs and began pulling down her pants. She told counsel her pants got stuck at her knees, at which point Jackson forced her onto the bed and started to have sex with her.
She said she was unable to move, and even though Jackson was aware she didn’t want this to happen, he kept going.
According to the woman, she then noticed the door open and Olding walk in. “My heart just sank,” she told the court. “I knew what was going to happen. I looked Patrick Jackson straight in the eyes and said ‘please no, not him as well.'”