Rugby players' rape trial: Witness 'thought she had seen a threesome'

A woman who walked in on an alleged rape involving two Ireland and Ulster rugby players thought she had witnessed a threesome, a court has been told.

Dara Florence was giving evidence to Belfast Crown Court during the trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

She said: "I closed the door, kind of laughed and said: 'I have just seen a threesome.'"

Ms Florence, who did not know the alleged victim, had been partying with friends at the home of fly half Jackson during the early hours of June 28 2016.

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court (Niall Carson/PA)
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Paddy Jackson arrives at Belfast Crown Court (Niall Carson/PA)

It was when she and a friend went to look for a third intoxicated companion that she walked in on the sex act, the court heard.

Having heard "moaning" and "groaning" from an upstairs bedroom, Ms Florence said she opened the door, mistakenly believing it may have been her missing friend.

Prosecution barrister Toby Hedworth QC asked: "You opened the door. What was the result?"

"Seeing a threesome," said Ms Florence.

The door was opened for less than a minute, the court heard.

The complainant's head moved when she opened the door, it was claimed.

Ms Florence said: "It was like she had turned her head ... away."

Meanwhile, the court heard how Jackson allegedly asked Ms Florence if she wanted to join in the sexual activity.

"Did you reply?" asked Mr Hedworth.

"Yeah, I said, no," she said.

The barrister continued: "So, having declined the invitation, what happened then?"

Ms Florence said: "Yeah, so I closed the door, kind of laughed and said: 'I have just seen a threesome', and then we went down the stairs."

Some time later Ms Florence and her friend left the party in a taxi, leaving their other companion asleep in an upstairs living room, it emerged.

During cross-examination by Brendan Kelly QC, representing Jackson, she was questioned about two statements provided to police in which she claimed the woman had not appeared distressed.

"Presumably that remains your recollection?" asked Mr Kelly.

Ms Florence answered: "One hundred per cent."

She did not have any concerns about what she saw in the bedroom, the court heard.

Mr Kelly added: "Did you have any concern when you left the room?"

She answered: "No."

In her evidence, the complainant has described being "frozen with fear" as reasons for not fighting back or screaming for help when Ms Florence walked in.

Mr Kelly asked: "Did you see any sign that (the complainant) was frozen with fear when you were stood watching her on the bed?"

"No," said Ms Florence.

The lawyer added: "From what you could see, and please listen to my question very carefully: were there any signs of (the complainant) not consenting to what was going on?"

Again, Ms Florence replied: "No."

During further questioning, by Frank O'Donoghue QC, representing Olding, the woman again stated she did not see anything that caused alarm.

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding (Niall Carson/PA)
Ireland and Ulster rugby player Stuart Olding (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr O'Donoghue asked: "There was nothing unusual in the position that she was adopting that made you feel her position was forced or contrived in any way?"

She said: "No."

Before concluding her evidence, Ms Florence was again re-examined by prosecution barrister Mr Hedworth QC about the actions of the complainant.

He said: "Apart from turning her head, were there any actions?"

Ms Florence said: "No."

The lawyer then said: "Were there any signs that (the complainant) was positively consenting?"

The woman said: "No."

Jackson, 26, from Oakleigh Park in Belfast, and 24-year-old Olding, from Ardenlee Street in the city, deny raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016.

Jackson denies a further charge of sexual assault.

Two others have been charged in connection with the same alleged incident.

Blane McIlroy, 26, from Royal Lodge Road, Ballydollaghan, Belfast, denies exposure, while Rory Harrison, 25, from Manse Road in Belfast, also denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information.