Woman 'cried throughout taxi journey home' driver tells rugby rape trial
A taxi driver who took a woman allegedly raped by two Irish rugby players home has told a court she was crying and sobbing throughout the journey.
The man was giving evidence in the high-profile trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who deny raping the woman at a house in south Belfast in June 2016.
He told Belfast Crown Court: "The young woman definitely seemed very upset.
"She was crying/sobbing throughout the journey. She did not really talk very much at all, bar telling me where she needed to go."
The court heard that the complainant had been in the taxi with Rory Harrison, who denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
When asked by a prosecutor about Harrison's actions, the taxi driver told the jury: "The gentleman in question was attempting to comfort the lady.
"I believe I remember her head was placed on his chest. He was trying to comfort her."
He was further quizzed about a phone conversation involving Harrison in the car.
He said: "To me, from what I heard, I would explain it as talking as sort of in code" and added that he had heard "small snippets".
"I recall him saying to the person on the phone 'She is with me now. She is not good. I'll call you in the morning'," he added.
The taxi driver was questioned by a barrister for Jackson about staining he had noticed on the back of the complainant's white trousers.
When he checked his seats, there was no sign of any stains or marks and he felt the stain had been dried in, the court heard.
Meanwhile, the court was told that, when police made contact with the taxi driver, he knew what they wanted.
"It dawned on me - I went 'Oh yes', and the whole episode came together," he said.
Under cross-examination by Gavin Duffy QC, representing Harrison, the taxi driver confirmed he had not reported any concerns to police.
Paddy Jackson (26), from Oakleigh Park in Belfast,and his Ireland and Ulster and team-mate Stuart Olding (24), from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman on June 28 2016.
Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.
Blane McIlroy (26) from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, denies exposure.
Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.
Later the court heard evidence from a friend of the alleged victim.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had been socialising with the complainant in Ollies nightclub on the night in question.
The pair had spent time in the VIP section of the club where Ulster Rugby players and some Northern Ireland footballers were partying.
The woman told the court she had seen Paddy Jackson but did not recognise any of the others.
She did not leave the club with the complainant but at 3.04am received a text message from her stating she was "back at Paddy Jackson's".
Twenty minutes later, the woman responded: "Haha. How and why?"
There was no reply to that message, the court heard.
The next communication between the pair came around 8am or 9am the following morning when she received a text from the complainant stating: "Worst night ever. So I got raped."
The message was followed by five upside down emoji faces, the court heard.
Prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC asked what her reaction had been.
The woman answered: "So, obviously I was in shock. I was like, 'oh my God. I am so sorry, I shouldn't have left you."'
She then tried to call the complainant but it was not answered.
In further text messages read to the court, the complainant attempted to explain what had allegedly happened.
Her friend asked: "Jesus f****** Christ, were there more than one?"
The complainant said: "Two, then another tried to get involved."
In an apparent effort to persuade the alleged victim to go to the police and/or a rape crisis centre, the friend added: "If there's bruising and tearing you have to go to the police."
Meanwhile, the court also heard about another text exchange in which the complainant wrote: "They are scum. It's that schoolboy rugby attitude times a million."
Outlining her concerns about going to the authorities, the complainant told her friend: "Thing is I would report it if I knew they would get done. But they won't.
"And that's just unnecessary stress for me. It's also humiliating.
"It will be a case of my word against theirs, not like they have CCTV in their house and because there's more of them they'll all have the same fabricated story about me being some slut who was up for it. It will serve no purpose for me but be embarrassing."
When asked about DNA evidence, the complainant answered: "They'll say it was consensual. I was up for it stupid little girl now regretting it."
When the complainant said she was "so f****** done", the friend replied: "No, this does not have to define you or your life from now on."
The court heard the woman visited her friend and drove her to the Brooke clinic in Belfast city centre where she spoke with a counsellor.
The case has been adjourned until Thursday.