Latest: Friend of rape-accused rugby players 'came to my assistance when I needed help', widow tells court

Update 7.45pm: A friend of two Ireland and Ulster rugby players accused of rape has "wonderful qualities," a widow told Belfast Crown Court today.

Rory Harrison (aged 25) from Manse Road in Belfast, denies perverting the course of justice and withholding information about the alleged rape in June 2016.

Maura Cushnahan, who encountered him during a distressing situation at a Belfast bus station in 2015, said she felt it was her "duty" to give evidence on behalf of Harrison after reading about him in the press.

He had showed her "great kindness", she said.

"I know that this is just a snapshot of someone's life," Ms Cushnahan added.

"But, I can honestly say that he showed wonderful qualities...

"He came to my assistance when I needed help.

"He showed the qualities of kindness, total respect and reassurance.

"He really, to me, was a young gentleman."

Ms Cushnahan revealed she had been nursed during ill health by Harrison's mother.

She had meant to tell her about her son's kind act during subsequent medical appointments, but had forgotten.

"When I saw what had happened to Rory in the media, I felt it was my duty to tell his mother he was so very kind," she added.

The widow then wrote and volunteered herself as a character witness, the court heard.

All four defendants in the rugby rape trial deny all the charges against them.

The case continues.

Rory Harrison

Earlier: Friend of rape-accused rugby players denies there was any 'party line to adhere to'

The defence has finished calling evidence in the trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding, who are accused of raping the same woman in Belfast in 2016.

Two friends of the Ireland and Ulster rugby players are also on trial for various offences arising from the same alleged incident.

At a special sitting on Saturday, Rory Harrison denied misleading police or lying about what’s alleged to have happened at an afterparty at Paddy Jackson’s south Belfast home in June 2016.

The 25-year-old from Manse Road in Belfast is accused of perverting the course of justice and withholding information.

Under cross-examination today, prosecuting barrister Toby Hedworth suggested his initial witness statement was a “verbal fencing match”.

He was asked why he failed to mention the contact he had with the complainant after dropping her home in a taxi. He said he would have if the police had asked.

In one of those texts, the court heard she said what happened was “not consensual”. He insisted that was not discussed when he met his friends for lunch a short time later and when asked why not, he said he didn't believe her and didn't want to worry Paddy with it.

He denied misleading police about her level of distress and said there was no “party line to adhere to”.

Jackson and Olding (aged 24) from Ardenlee Street in Belfast, deny rape. Jackson also denies a further count of sexual assault.

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

The defence has now closed its case and closing speeches are due to get underway on Wednesday.

- Digital desk

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