A witness in the trial of four men accused of the rape and sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl has described how he found her in shock and in a terrible state in the early hours of the morning.

He was giving evidence in the trial at the Central Criminal Court of four men accused of rape and sexual assault. Three are also charged with false imprisonment. All four deny all the charges.

The witness, who was a close school friend of the complainant, said her clothes were not on properly, her hair was everywhere and her make-up had been wiped off when he met her on the street.

He had gone out to look for her after she appeared "panicked" and had sent a number of messages to him trying to find the address of a house he was in.

He said she sounded panicked and he made a number of attempts to call back a number from which she had phoned.

He said when he found her she kept saying "I couldn't stop them" and he was "kind of catching on fairly quickly" that something bad had happened. He said the woman was in complete shock and distressed.

"She was crying, she wasn’t making sense, she wasn’t drunk and something bad was after happening, she was in shock. We made her tea with sugar and asked her to go through it step by step, she told us bits and bobs but was still in shock, and we were saying we will have to go to the garda station and she eventually agreed, she knew how serious it was.

"She kept saying there was five of them or six of them and she couldn’t do anything. We were shocked as well and didn’t know what to do so we asked her to go to the garda station," he said.

He said the woman told him she had got into a car after hearing someone call her name and was driven on back roads and they all "took a go on her or something like that and they drove back to a car park and two others had another go. I think they were withholding something, a phone or a purse and she was looking to go. That is what she told me".

He said after the night the woman stayed in his house for a few days. "She didn't want to go home. I think she felt ashamed and she shouldn’t have."

He said she was worried about being pregnant and had to get a pill.

During cross-examination he agreed that in his garda statement he had not mentioned her clothes "being in tatters" as he had in his evidence today. He said it might have been the wrong word. He also agreed he had not mentioned in his statement that she had been sore and bruised as he had in the witness box today.

Earlier, the man’s friend gave evidence to say he had been with him and the woman earlier in the night. She had later contacted his friend looking for the address of the house they were in. He said they went outside to meet her. When she found them she was calling for his friend and sounded distraught.

She looked traumatised and it became clear to him that something had happened and there had been some kind of assault, he said. He said the woman was saying there were six of them and there was nothing she could do.

He said the woman was not talking in sentences but was hinting that something really bad had happened.

"She seemed to have been through a lot, it was a cold night. We realised some kind of an assault had taken place."

He said they flagged down another man driving by who was the son of a garda and might be more knowledgeable about what to do. They took the woman into the house to make her tea and try to find out what happened.

He said he left her to talk it through with his friend because he did not know the woman that well at the time and she was closer to the other man.

He said he did not need to know the detail but had gathered that she had been offered a lift and was not taken to where she had asked to be taken and that "something had happened and her belongings were withheld until she did whatever to the guys, that is as much as I knew".

The witness said the woman had earlier contacted his friend using the Facebook messenger account of someone else. When they examined the message, they realised the profile picture of the account was a car they had earlier seen driving around the town.

They took screenshots of the messages and discovered the account owner had blocked his friend by then so they searched for the Facebook profile on a computer and took screenshots which they showed to the gardaí when they took the woman to the local garda station.

The trial has earlier heard that the woman used the car driver’s phone to contact her friend.

He said they thought it was suspicious that the profile picture was the car that had passed them about five or six times and the occupants were shouting out the window.

He said they could not hear what they were saying but the last time they drove by the shouting appeared to be directed at the 17-year-old girl.

He also said the driver’s gaze seemed to be directed towards the young woman. He agreed on cross-examination that he had not said this in his statement to gardaí and said perhaps it was "a poor choice of words".

He agreed that before that it had been a normal night but "got weird" when the car started driving by. During cross-examination he agreed that it was a bunch of lads shouting out the window at various groups.

Asked if they were looking for attention he replied: "Either looking for attention or looking for trouble."

He said he and his friends were wondering "what are these gobshites doing driving around shouting at people".

Another man, who was the owner of the house where the group of friends had gathered that night, said he believed the woman was going to stay at his house that night but her plans changed.

One of his friends had offered her the chance to stay and he had said it would be no problem. He said his friend had gone out to meet the woman. When he went into the kitchen she was hysterically crying and that was a shock to him. He said they later took her to the garda station. He said she was holding back a bit because she was afraid her family might be upset about the situation.

Another man who was driving home from work and saw two friends with the woman said he stopped and very quickly noticed something was not right.

He said he could see they were trying to console the girl who looked "shook and distraught". He went with them to the house and they had tea and tried to get her to tell them what happened. He wanted her to go to the garda station because he was told she had been raped.

It was his understanding that she had been picked up by a group of lads who had offered her a lift home but then took her to one location and then to a car park in the town. He said he was told they took her bag and were not going to return it to her unless she had a threesome.

The four accused have all pleaded not guilty to raping the then 17-year-old girl at a location in the midlands on 27 December, 2016. The jury has been told a fifth man was also involved but is not before the court.

The first accused, a now 22-year-old, has also pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault and one count of false imprisonment.

The second accused, now aged 24, has also pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault, one count of oral rape and one count of false imprisonment.

The third defendant, now aged 24, has also pleaded not guilty to an additional count of rape, two counts of sexual assault and one count of false imprisonment. The fourth accused, now aged 23, has also pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault.

All of the offending is alleged to have been committed at various locations in the midlands on the same date against the same woman when the accused were aged between 17 and 19.

The trial continues.