Northern Ireland news

Rugby rape trial: Stuart Olding says 'embarrassing' messages exchanged with friends were 'immature boasting'

 Stuart Olding arriving at court today. Picture by Hugh Russell
Lesley-Anne McKeown and Deborah McAleese, Press Association

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding has told a court he is embarrassed and not proud of text exchanges in which he boasted of sexual activity.

The 24-year-old, who denies rape, was giving evidence on his own behalf at a high-profile trial in Belfast Crown Court.

He said: "I feel very embarrassed sitting here reading them.

"I am certainly not proud talking like that.

"But I did it, I have done it and I shouldn't have done it."

The court has previously heard about a series of exchanges with friends on the WhatsApp messaging service in which Olding had posted: "We are all top shaggers."

"It was immature boasting with my friends," he told the court.

Olding also referred to a term which he said he understood was a slang reference for a threesome.

 Paddy Jackson (left) and Stuart Olding arrive at court for an earlier hearing

Explaining his WhatsApp comment in which he said: "It was like a merry-go-round at the carnival", he added: "It does not even mean anything. It was just said in an excited state. It is nonsense."

Olding also received a text message from a friend that asked: "How was she?"

Olding said: "He was referring to the night. He was not referring to (the woman). It's just something we would say. If you got a new car you would say, 'How is she?' It's just a slang term."

He was asked if later in the day when he and the co-accused discussed the previous evening, anything was said to lead him to believe the events had been anything other than consensual.

Olding replied: "No, not at all. I'm 100% sure."

Olding was questioned for almost two hours by his defence counsel Frank O'Donoghue QC.

He gave graphic detail of the oral sex he says was "performed" by the complainant for about 10 minutes with two brief interruptions - once when co-accused Paddy Jackson went to look for a condom and when he "asked" the woman to remove her top.

Afterwards, Olding said he got up and went into a bathroom.

When asked if there was anything to suggest the complainant was not consenting to what was happening, he said: "No, not at all.

"If I had thought that, nothing would have happened, nothing would have started and nothing would have continued."

He had earlier been asked if he had forced the woman in any way.

Olding answered: "No, I did not force her in any way."

 Blane McIlroy (left) and Rory Harrison walking into court at a previous hearing. Pictures by Hugh Russell

The rape trial being heard by Judge Patricia Smyth is now in its sixth week. 

The court heard how Olding had initially gone upstairs to find somewhere to sleep. The door to Jackson's room was closed but he opened it and walked in.

He said: "I saw Paddy on his back and (the alleged victim) on top of him and they were kissing at the time.

"I'm certain Paddy's top was off. I'm not sure about his trousers. (The woman) was fully clothed."

When asked what his reaction had been, he said: "I had just intruded in two people kissing on the bed. I turned to leave."

He added: "(The woman) turned around and held out her hand as an invitation to stay. I'm sure of that. I closed the door and went over to the bed and started to kiss (her)."

In earlier evidence, Olding insisted he had told police the truth about what happened when he was interviewed two days after the alleged attack.

Mr O'Donoghue said: "Do you stand by what you told the police?

"Is that the truth?"

Olding replied: "That is the truth."

The court also heard how Olding had returned from a South African rugby tour as part of the Ireland squad shortly before the alleged rape on June 28 2016.

He said: "Things had gone very well for me on the tour.

"I had managed to get two caps. I thought I was really going to progress from there.

"I was delighted. I was in a good place."

Evidence was given about his education at Ben Madigan Preparatory School and Belfast Royal Academy and his rugby career, which has been dogged by injury, with a number of surgeries to repair torn ligaments on his knee and elbow.

He has delayed completing a sport science degree at Ulster University because of rugby commitments, the court was told.

The jury of eight men and three women also heard that Olding and co-accused Jackson, who also denies rape, were close personal friends.

"Yes, he is a very close friend," Olding added.

 Paddy Jackson arriving at court this morning. Picture by Hugh Russell

Meanwhile, Olding was also quizzed about alcohol consumption.

He said: "I would consume alcohol in my time off.

"Usually, it is pretty confined to when I am off, that's the chance we get to relax."

He told the court that the day before an alleged attack on a woman in Jackson's house he and Jackson went to co-accused Blane McIlroy's house at around 4pm. He had a pizza and eight cans of beer.

They later went to a bar where he had burger and chips, a few pints of Guinness and a few gin and tonics. They then went to Ollie's nightclub at about midnight where he had five vodka and lemonades and a few shots.

"I was pretty drunk but still coherent and I knew my whereabouts," he told the court.

Asked by his defence barrister if anything untoward happened that day or night he replied: "No, not at all." He added: "I was happy. I was enjoying myself. I was having a good time."

Olding said he left Ollies at around 2.15am and went back to Jackson's house in a taxi.

"I was in the kitchen and living room, enjoying conversation and dancing. I was talking with everybody. Everyone was mingling and socialising," he said.

Olding said he and McIlroy danced with their jeans down at the party.

"We had our jeans down but still had our boxers on and singing in front of the girls and they were filming it. We both had the same knee injuries and we thought it would be funny to show our scars."

He later went upstairs to Jackson's room to go to bed, he said.

Asked if he had caused the alleged victim vaginal injuries, Olding said: "I did not cause those injuries."

The defence asked him if he had ever been involved in a fight. He responded: "No, never in my life."

Asked if he had ever had occasion to raise his hand to anyone he said: "No, I haven't."

The court heard that after 60 appearances for Ulster and five for Ireland, Olding had received two yellow cards, both technical penalties, not for violence.

"Have you ever raised your hand to anyone on the rugby field?" he was asked. He replied: "No."

Asked if he had ever seen Jackson be violent on the rugby pitch, he said: "I have never seen Paddy be violent."

Jackson (26) from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and Olding, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman in south Belfast on June 28 2016.

Blane McIlroy (26) from Royal Lodge Road in Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to exposure while Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road in Belfast, has pleaded not guilty to perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

The case continues.


Read more: This afternoon's court report

I never saw Paddy Jackson being violent, says character witness Declan Fitzpatrick


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