Taxi driver describes picking up "sobbing" woman from Paddy Jackson's home
The latest from Belfast Crown Court.
A taxi driver who took a young woman home from a party at the home of rugby international Paddy Jackson said she was "crying/sobbing throughout the journey", a court heard on Wednesday.
The Fonacabs driver also revealed that when police contacted him days after an alleged rape, he knew "straight away" what it was in connection with.
The taxi driver was working in the early hours of Tuesday, 28 June, 2016 when he picked up Rory Harrison and a young woman.
Harrison and three other co-accused are standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on charges arising from an alleged sex attack on a then 19-year old woman in the bedroom of Jackson's south Belfast home.
The woman, who claims she was raped, left Jackson's home just before 5am and was brought home by Harrison in a taxi.
Giving evidence during the third week of the trial, the taxi driver was asked by Crown prosecutor Toby Hedworth QC how the young woman "appeared to be."
The witness told the court and jury: "The young woman definitely seemed very upset. She was crying/sobbing throughout the journey, and she didn't really talk very much at all, bar telling me where she needed to go to."
When asked how she interacted with the male passenger - Harrison - the driver replied: "The gentleman in question was attempting to comfort the lady. He would have been holding on to her. I believe, I remember, her head was placed on his chest and he was trying to comfort her."
The driver also recalled Harrison having a conversation on his mobile phone, saying he heard "small snippets of conversation ... I would explain it was sort of talking in code."
When asked about what he heard, the driver said: "I recall him saying to the person on the phone 'she is with me now, she is not good, I will call you in the morning."
The taxi driver was then questioned about anything he noticed about the women when she get out of his taxi after arriving home.
He said she was unsteady on her feet, and that he saw staining on the backside area of her white trousers. He also revealed he later checked the back seat of his vehicle for staining, but saw nothing.
Also raised during today's hearing was a conversation the driver had with Harrison after leaving the young woman home. When a comment was made about a 'rough night', Harrison is alleged to have said "you have no idea ... you could say that."
After the woman made a complaint to the police claiming she had been raped, an investigation was launched. The taxi driver told the court that after learning police wanted to talk to him, "it resonated with me and I knew straight away what it was in relation to.
"It dawned on me, I went 'oh yeah, it's in relation to that night.' It all came together, the whole episode came together."
Jackson (26) from Oakleigh Park, and 24-year old Stuart Olding, from Ardenlee Street, have both been charged with rape, while Jackson faces an additional charge of sexual assault.
Blane McIlroy 026), from Royal Lodge Road, has been charged with exposure, while Rory Harrison (25) from Manse Road, who has been charged with perverting the course of justice, and withholding information.
All four defendants deny the charges levelled against them.
Reporting by Ashleigh McDonald of M&M News Services