The jury trial of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players accused of sexual offences has heard they allegedly boasted about their sexual activity on Whatsapp.

Paddy Jackson, 26, and Stuart Olding, 24, are accused of raping the same woman, 19, at a property in south Belfast in June 2016.

Both Mr Olding, of Ardenlee Street in Belfast, and Mr Jackson, from Oakleigh Park, also in the city, deny the charges.

Mr Jackson also denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two other men have also been returned for trial on charges connected with the alleged incident on 28 June 2016.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, is accused of one count of exposure.

Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road, Belfast, is charged with perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Details of mobile phone communications were given to the jury of nine men and three women during the opening day of the high profile trial at Belfast Crown Court.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Toby Hebworth QC said the case concerned serious sexual misconduct by three of the defendants – Mr Jackson, Mr Olding and Mr McIlroy and attempts by their friend Mr Harrison to cover up their conduct.

The prosecution claims this happened at a party in Mr Jackson’s house in Belfast where he and Mr Olding engaged in sexual activity with a young woman against her wishes.

Earlier, Judge Patricia Smyth apologised to the jury for the delay in starting the case, explaining it was to deal with a legal matter.


Warning: Readers may find the below information graphic


In his opening statement Mr Hedworth said the case "involves a young woman going to an after party with other females at the home of a well-known sportsman, Patrick Jackson, the first defendant.

"He was accompanied by the remaining defendants, who were all close friends of his.

"The night ended, we say, with the first two defendants engaging in sexual activity with that young woman against her wishes, as they well knew or as they simply were not interested in considering. The third was hoping to join in."

During the lengthy opening statement, Mr Hedworth warned jurors against applying stereotypical images of those involved.

He said: "As this case concerns a young woman going to an after-party with young sportsmen, there is the danger that stereotypical views are taken of what such a complainant should expect.

"Equally, there may be stereotypical views of the behaviour of young men, particularly when in drink and with their friends."

All four defendants, who arrived at court separately, sat alongside each other in the dock.

They listened intently but gave little reaction as graphic details of the alleged attack were outlined.

Mr Hedworth said it is alleged the young woman was raped and sexually assaulted by Mr Jackson, and that she was raped by Mr Olding. 

He also said that Mr McIlroy allegedly exposed himself to the young woman intentionally.

"Effectively, this group of friends were keen to have sexual activity with this young woman, regardless of whether or not she was prepared to do so," he said.

"When she was able to escape from what was being done to her the fourth defendant, Rory Harrison, appeared to give her help and support but in the event, it turned out, we suggest, that his true loyalty was to his friends and what they had done."

The court heard how the woman had been with friends in the VIP area of Ollie's nightclub in Belfast's Merchant Hotel.

Also present were members of the Ulster rugby team and some Northern Ireland footballers.

At closing time, about 2.30am, the woman was standing outside with a small number of women who she did not know but who were friends of a close friend.

She decided to go with them to a party at Mr Jackson's home and at some stage during the night she and Mr Jackson went upstairs to his bedroom.

Mr Hedworth said: "She does recall that at one stage she was in that room and was consensually kissing him but had made it plain to him that she would go no further."

They returned downstairs and later she decided to leave "because the atmosphere changed", returning to the bedroom to get her bag.

Mr Hedworth said that Mr Jackson allegedly followed her upstairs before pushing her onto the bed and raping her.

"He had not in any way sought her consent and indeed had used force to achieve his aim," Mr Hedworth said.

The jury was told the alleged victim did not try to fight Mr Jackson off but was "numb".

When Mr Olding entered the room, it was claimed she recalled saying: "Please not him as well."

Mr Hedworth said that Mr Olding then also raped the woman.

At some point a text message was sent by Mr McIlroy asking: "Is there a possibility of a threesome?"

Mr Hedworth said: "That was not replied to, but at a point when Jackson and Olding were desisting from their attack the door of the bedroom opened and McIlroy entered, stark naked".

The court heard how the woman could not face the prospect of further attack and quickly tried to flee.

The jury was told that the WhatsApp messages, posted later that morning, have a "true flavour" of the attitude of the defendants.

In a text message to a friend the following day, the woman said she had been raped.

In another message, she said: "I was entirely fine going back after ... some of them just couldn't take no for an answer."

But she also expressed reluctance to go to police, saying: "Thing is I would report it if I knew they would get done.

"But they won't. And that's unnecessary stress for me. It's also humiliating...

"It will be my word against theirs, not like they have CCTV in their house and because there's more of them and they'll all have the same fabricated story about me being some sl*t who was up for it."

But she did go to the police and the taxi driver who took her and Rory Harrison home was traced.

Mr Hedworth said: "When police contacted him he immediately knew who they wanted to know about because the girl had been so upset."

Concluding his comments, the barrister reminded jurors it was for the prosecution to prove guilt and not for the accused to prove innocence.

"Anything less than being sure of guilt and you acquit. But equally, if you are sure of guilt you convict."

All four defendants have pleaded not guilty and are on bail.