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In this scene from "Tyrion IV" in "A Clash of Kings", Tyrion and Varys discuss Elia Martell's rape death. Her death was unsolved even though many suspected Gregor Clegane.

“Why forget?” Tyrion smiled. “I’ve promised to deliver his sister’s killers, alive or dead, as he prefers. After the war is done, to be sure.”

Varys gave him a shrewd look. “My little birds tell me that Princess Elia cried a . . . certain name . . . when they came for her.”

“Is a secret still a secret if everyone knows it?” In Casterly Rock, it was common knowledge that Gregor Clegane had killed Elia and her babe. They said he had raped the princess with her son’s blood and brains still on his hands.

“This secret is your lord father’s sworn man.”

The point is that people merely saying so is just rumor, not proof. We know Gregor Clegane killed Elia and her children, but to my best knowledge, there is no proof he raped her too.

During his duel with the Mountain, Oberyn Martell provoked him by repeatedly accusing him of raping and killing his sister. Near the end of their combat, Clegane confesses in front dozens of people that he raped and killed Elia Martell. His confession moments before his "death" erased all doubts.

But did Oberyn know she was raped? Or did he merely guess? Was there evidence which would imply she was raped?

(Side note: This quote by Varys makes me wonder if Elia lived just long enough to implicate Gregor when Varys' little spies arrived in the tower of the Red Keep. “My little birds tell me that Princess Elia cried a . . . certain name . . . when they came for her.” It would be out of character for Gregor to let her live for even a few minutes.)

Please provide answers from canon sources.

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    Out of universe, forced sex can leave injuries to the female genitals. (Warning: sensitive topics about the aftermath of rape). So if they’d looked at her body and found any such evidence, it would’ve been quite clear. – Edlothiad Mar 15 '18 at 6:20
  • Oberyn had heard the rumours but of course he had no proof. Jon Arryn's earlier inquiry did not establish anything to help them along. Which is precisely why he took the chance to become Tyrion's champion so that he could face the Mountain and get him to confess. It wasn't out of the charity, Lannisters were determined to keep Gregor away from him and this was Oberyn's one chance to meet him with a spear in hand. He did not just want the dog, he wanted the man who ordered that dog as well. – Aegon Mar 15 '18 at 7:02
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    Three Billboards Outside King's Landing. "Raped While Dying", "And Still No Arrests", "How Come, Tywin Lannister?" – LincolnMan Mar 17 '18 at 15:15
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These were rumours and no one really knew what happened.

For example, Eddard, who actually was at King's Landing when (Or just a few hours later) this happened. Even he thinks of it as rumours.

Unlike his brother, Ser Gregor did not live at court. He was a solitary man who seldom left his own lands, but for wars and tourneys. He had been with Lord Tywin when King's Landing fell, a new-made knight of seventeen years, even then distinguished by his size and his implacable ferocity. Some said it had been Gregor who'd dashed the skull of the infant prince Aegon Targaryen against a wall, and whispered that afterward he had raped the mother, the Dornish princess Elia, before putting her to the sword. These things were not said in Gregor's hearing.
AGOT - Eddard VII

If even people who were there to observe the immediate aftermath of the act don't know it for sure, we can safely assume that no one did. But of course Gregor's own men must have known, his comrades too possibly who may have had the opportunity to witness the Princess' corpse. And we know that Mountain's men are prone to bragging about his rapes as they did with him raping the daughter of an innkeeper after the Hand's Tourney in front of Arya and other soldiers. So word naturally spread, which we can expect was especially fast as the rumour was about the former Queen-to-be, A Princess of Dorne and her tragic death.

Robert later ordered an inquiry but it was just a show, he was not going to break off his Lannister alliance, so it's not a surprise that it did not establish anything.

"Wars and weddings have kept us well occupied, Prince Oberyn. I fear no one has yet had the time to look into murders sixteen years stale, dreadful as they were. We shall, of course, just as soon as we may. Any help that Dorne might be able to provide to restore the king's peace would only hasten the beginning of my lord father's inquiry—"

"Dwarf," said the Red Viper, in a tone grown markedly less cordial, "spare me your Lannister lies. Is it sheep you take us for, or fools? My brother is not a bloodthirsty man, but neither has he been asleep for sixteen years. Jon Arryn came to Sunspear the year after Robert took the throne, and you can be sure that he was questioned closely. Him, and a hundred more. I did not come for some mummer's show of an inquiry. I came for justice for Elia and her children, and I will have it. Starting with this lummox Gregor Clegane . . . but not, I think, ending there. Before he dies, the Enormity That Rides will tell me whence came his orders, please assure your lord father of that." He smiled.
ASOS - Tyrion V

Here, as you can notice, Tyrion does not mention the rape when he speaks of a new inquiry, neither does Oberyn. Elia and her children being murdered was undisputed, the rape however remained just a rumour. Oberyn still could have insisted on investigation of those charges as well but for some reason it did not happen.

Between themselves, when discussing the justice, Tyrion and his father talked only as if the murder charges were the only ones that Oberyn knew of for sure and even at that, he did not have any evidence as to who was the real culprit.

“Very well, as you ask so pleasantly. The Red Viper is not going to be pleasant, I fear... nor will he content himself with Ser Gregor’s head alone.”

“All the more reason not to give it to him.”

“Not to... ?” Tyrion was shocked. “I thought we were agreed that the woods were full of beasts.”

“Lesser beasts.” Lord Tywin’s fingers laced together under his chin. “Ser Gregor has served us well. No other knight in the realm inspires such terror in our enemies.”

Oberyn knows that Gregor was the one who...”

He knows nothing. He has heard tales. Stable gossip and kitchen calumnies. He has no crumb of proof. Ser Gregor is certainly not about to confess to him. I mean to keep him well away for so long as the Dornishmen are in King’s Landing.

“And when Oberyn demands the justice he’s come for?”

“I will tell him that Ser Amory Lorch killed Elia and her children,” Lord Tywin said calmly. “So will you, if he asks.”

“Ser Amory Lorch is dead,” Tyrion said flatly.

“Precisely. Vargo Hoat had Ser Amory torn apart by a bear after the fall of Harrenhal. That ought to be sufficiently grisly to appease even Oberyn Martell.”
ASOS - Tyrion VI

But the rape did happen, Tywin Lannister, Commander of the men who did it, is confident that it happened. He however claims that he never intended to harm Elia and she should have been unharmed.

His father shrugged. “I grant you, it was done too brutally. Elia need not have been harmed at all, that was sheer folly. By herself she was nothing.”

“Then why did the Mountain kill her?”

“Because I did not tell him to spare her. I doubt I mentioned her at all. I had more pressing concerns. Ned Stark’s van was rushing south from the Trident, and I feared it might come to swords between us. And it was in Aerys to murder Jaime, with no more cause than spite. That was the thing I feared most. That, and what Jaime himself might do.” He closed a fist. “Nor did I yet grasp what I had in Gregor Clegane, only that he was huge and terrible in battle. The rape... even you will not accuse me of giving that command, I would hope. Ser Amory was almost as bestial with Rhaenys. I asked him afterward why it had required half a hundred thrusts to kill a girl of... two? Three? He said she’d kicked him and would not stop screaming. If Lorch had halfthe wits the gods gave a turnip, he would have calmed her with a few sweet words and used a soft silk pillow.” His mouth twisted in distaste. “The blood was in him.”
ASOS - Tyrion VI

But later, Tyrion admitted in front of Oberyn that the rape did happen and who was the rapist, confirming his doubts.

"How sad for him," said the Red Viper. "And for you. Do all noseless men lie so badly, I wonder?"

"I am not lying. Ser Amory dragged Princess Rhaenys out from under her father's bed and stabbed her to death. He had some men-at-arms with him, but I do not know their names." He leaned forward. "It was Ser Gregor Clegane who smashed Prince Aegon's head against a wall and raped your sister Elia with his blood and brains still on his hands."

"What is this, now? Truth, from a Lannister?" Oberyn smiled coldly. "Your father gave the commands, yes?"
ASOS - Tyrion IX

So by the time Oberyn met Gregor, he was certain and he needed only Gregor's confession, which he did receive.

In Conclusion:

  1. There were only rumours.
  2. Lannisters believed Martells had no proof.
  3. Rape did happen.
  4. By the time Oberyn met Gregor in combat, he was certain about the rape and that Gregor had done it, thanks to Tyrion.
  • 1
    But I mean, if Gregor said he did it, then I'm inclined to believe that he did. – Möoz Mar 16 '18 at 3:19
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    Additionally, I don't think it matters to Oberyn. People said it, and that's all that matters. He can't let the last memory of his beloved sister be sullied. – Möoz May 15 at 5:42

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