Woman claimed Ben Roberts-Smith punched her in the face then told his wife about affair


A woman who once claimed Ben Roberts-Smith punched her in the face went to his wife after the alleged attack to say they had been having an affair.

The Federal Court in Sydney heard on Monday that the woman, known as Person 17, had not made any allegation of assault against Mr Roberts-Smith until after he ended their relationship.

Mr Roberts-Smith, a former Special Air Service trooper awarded the Victoria Cross, is suing The Sydney Morning Herald over a story claiming he punched the woman, when he contends she drunkenly fell down the stairs.

The decorated soldier is also suing the newspaper, along with The Age and the Canberra Times, over allegations he committed war crimes while on deployment in Afghanistan, which he vehemently denies.

Australia’s most decorated soldier has arrived at the Federal Court in Sydney ready for battle against the media outlets he claims destroyed his reputation as a war hero

Ben Roberts-Smith will spend the next two months in room 18D at the Law Courts Building in the central business district defending himself against claims he is a war criminal

Ben Roberts-Smith will spend the next two months in room 18D at the Law Courts Building in the central business district defending himself against claims he is a war criminal

Mr Roberts-Smith's ex-wife Emma has 'flipped' and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment. The former couple is pictured together at a reception to celebrate military and civilian heroes in London in 2012

Mr Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife Emma has ‘flipped’ and is giving evidence for Nine Entertainment. The former couple is pictured together at a reception to celebrate military and civilian heroes in London in 2012

Barrister Bruce McClintock SC, for Mr Roberts-Smith, said Person 17 attended a function hosted by then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at Parliament House with his client on March 28, 2018.

Person 17 became so intoxicated at the function she fell down a set of stairs leading to an underground car park and suffered seriously injuries to her face, Mr McClintock said.

Nine newspapers published a story claiming Mr Roberts-Smith argued with the woman after the function and was angry with her out of fear she had exposed their affair.

The paper alleges that in response to Person 17 saying, ‘my head hurts’, Mr Roberts-Smith had said, ‘It’s going to hurt more’ or ‘I’ll show you what hurt is’ and punched her in the left eye.

Mr McClintock said that was exactly where Person 17 had been injured when she fell and Mr Roberts-Smith had not hit her.

‘This allegation is entirely false,’ he said.

‘[The fall] is the true and only sources of the injuries that this woman suffered that night.

‘Far from hitting Person 17 my client will give evidence that he absolutely abhors violence towards women and he has never and will never engage in it.’

His accusers have also assembled at the Federal Court as they try to prove on the balance of probabilities that Mr Roberts-Smith was involved in six murders during Australia's longest war

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine-owned newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, plus the now-separately owned The Canberra Times over allegations he committed battlefield crimes while on deployment in Afghanistan, which he vehemently denies

His accusers have also assembled at the Federal Court as they try to prove on the balance of probabilities that Mr Roberts-Smith was involved in six murders during Australia’s longest war

Nine executive editor of Australian Metro Publishing James Chessell (left) and editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Lisa Davies (right) arrive at the court

Nine executive editor of Australian Metro Publishing James Chessell (left) and editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Lisa Davies (right) arrive at the court

Mr McClintock said Mr Roberts-Smith took the woman back to their hotel room, put her to bed and wrapped ice in a towel which he applied to her face.

The woman never alleged Mr Roberts-Smith hit her until she spoke to Nine journalist Nick McKenzie two months after the function, the court heard.

Mr McClintock said within a week of Person 17 sustaining the injuries she went to the Roberts-Smith matrimonial home and told his wife she had been having an affair with her husband.

Mrs Roberts and her mother asked about Person 17’s facial injuries and she said she had fallen down stairs, Mr McClintock told the court.

Person 17 said the same thing to a doctor and a complaint she later made to police was eventually withdrawn. 

Mr McClintock also told the court Mr Roberts-Smith was the victim of jealous former comrades who made false allegations of war crimes against him.

He said his client’s defamation case against Nine newspapers was on one hand about ‘courage, devotion to duty self-sacrifice’ and skill in soldiering.

The parents of Mr Roberts-Smith, Len and Sue Roberts-Smith depart the Federal Court, hours after claiming the allegations against their son ruined their lives

The parents of Mr Roberts-Smith, Len and Sue Roberts-Smith depart the Federal Court, hours after claiming the allegations against their son ruined their lives

But on the other hand, he told the Sydney courtroom, it was a a case about ‘dishonest journalism, corrosive jealousy, cowardice and lies’.

‘It’s also about how a man with a deservedly high reputation for courage, skill and decency… had that reputation destroyed by bitter people jealous of his courage and success as a solider, particularly his Victoria Cross, aided by credulous journalists.’ 

Mr McClintock said Mr Roberts-Smith was just the latest in a long line of young men Australia has been sending overseas to fight and die for more than a century.

‘My client was an exceptional soldier,’ Mr McClintock said.

War was relentlessly violent, Mr McClintock said, and that fact had been forgotten in the rush to bring Mr Roberts-Smith down.

Mr McClintock then quoted Britain’s War World II leader Winston Churchill: ‘We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.’

He argued Mr Roberts-Smith and his comrades-in-arms were sent to kill in Afghanistan and their Taliban insurgent enemy did not wear uniforms and decisions had to be made without the benefit of hindsight.

‘When our soldiers went into a village there was no way of knowing, at least by observation of what they were wearing, whether the person in question was an insurgent or an ordinary villager,’ Mr McClintock said. 

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for 'selfless' actions in Afghanistan and will now fight for his reputation in the Federal Court, claiming he was smeared by media giant Nine Entertainment

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘selfless’ actions in Afghanistan and will now fight for his reputation in the Federal Court, claiming he was smeared by media giant Nine Entertainment

The war in Afghanistan was fought amid intense heat, dust, noise, smells and fear – a battlefield on which Mr Roberts-Smith excelled.

‘It is impossible here in this court room the reality of fighting in the conditions that existed in Afghanistan,’ Mr McClintock said.

Mr McClintock said decisions in the heat of battle had to be made instantly and how one person might see an event from 100m away could appear completely different up-close.

‘Perspective is everything,’ he told the court. ‘Battle is not like a computer game when you restart the game and get your lives back.’

Mr McClintock said the former soldiers who made claims against Mr Roberts-Smith had not spoken up until years after the events they now complained about.

He suggested some of their claims were made out of jealousy over Mr Roberts-Smith’s medals for gallantry and their own failures as soldiers. 

Mr McClintock said one false allegation Mr Roberts-Smith murdered an Afghani, which was recently withdrawn by Nine, should lead to the largest aggravated damages ever awarded in Australia.

The action in September 2012 involved Mr Roberts-Smith swimming a river at Darwan in Uruzgan Province and shooting dead a mid-level insurgent armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle.

During his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mr Roberts-Smith (pictured) drew enemy fire away from pinned-down members of his patrol, stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them

During his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mr Roberts-Smith (pictured) drew enemy fire away from pinned-down members of his patrol, stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them

Mr Roberts-Smith then dragged the man’s body to the edge of the river and sat him up so he could be photographed to be identified with facial recognition technology.

‘There can be absolutely no doubt that my client killed this insurgent within the rules of engagement,’ Mr McClintock said.

Mr McClintock outlined events which occurred at a Taliban compound known as Whiskey 108 at Kakarak in southern Afghanistan on Easter Sunday in April 2009.

During that engagement Mr Roberts-Smith shot dead an insurgent with a prosthetic leg. Another soldier, known as Person 6 in the court case and one of Mr Roberts-Smith’s ‘enemies’, souvenired the leg as a war trophy.

Mr McClintock said the leg was kept at the SAS base and used as a drinking vessel, which might seem in bad taste, ‘but in the scheme of human wickedness it does not rate very high’.

Nonetheless, Mr Roberts-Smith maintained he never drank from the hollow limb because he did not want to lend approval to something Person 6 did.

On another mission in July 2012 in the Chora Valley a patrol led by Mr Roberts-Smith had been accidentally fired upon by another SAS patrol.

A member of Mr Roberts-Smith’s patrol, known as Person 10, opened fire with a machinegun. Mr Roberts-Smith saw that a woman in a burka and a boy were in Person 10’s arc of fire.

Mr McClintock said that after that engagement Mr Roberts-Smith asked Person 10 why he had shot at the woman and child.

When Person 10, who has accused Mr Roberts-Smith of bullying, responded by giggling, Mr Roberts-Smith punched him the face.

‘He’s hardly the first person in the army to throw a punch,’ Mr McClintock told the court.

Mr Roberts-Smith is also suing his ex-wife Emma Roberts, claiming she broke into his email account. She is pictured outside her Brisbane home on Friday

Mr Roberts-Smith is also suing his ex-wife Emma Roberts, claiming she broke into his email account. She is pictured outside her Brisbane home on Friday

Mr McClintock also referred to the capture of three Afghan men and a teenager who were travelling in a Toyota Hilux at Fazel in November 2012. The youth was allegedly ‘shaking like a leaf’ during the encounter.

Nine claims Mr Roberts-Smith admitted murdering the boy in a conversation one or two days after the mission in a conversation with Person 16 who asked him, ‘What happened to the young bloke who was shaking like a leaf?’

Mr Roberts-Smith allegedly responded: ‘I shot the c*** in the head. [Person 15] told me not to kill any c*** on that job so I pulled out my 9mm and shot him in the head. It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.’

Mr McClintock said that version of events was ‘absolutely ridiculous’.

‘It’s like Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now as Colonel Kilgore on ice,’ he said. ‘It’s insane. It’s the sort of thing that would be said by an ostentatious psychopath.’

Defence documents would reveal the four males were intercepted by a patrol Mr Roberts-Smith was not on, the boy had been released and the three men were taken to the Australian base at Tarin Kowt.

Mr McClintock said the jealousy towards his client escalated after he was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2011, when he became famous outside military circles.

The court heard that on Mr Roberts-Smith’s last deployment to Afghanistan in 2012 he would find messages such as ‘BRS is after another medal’ on a noticeboard at the Australians’ headquarters.

Mr McClintock said by 2012 the workload Mr Roberts-Smith endured was ‘almost inhumane’ but he coped better with repeated deployments than many of his colleagues.

After Mr Roberts-Smith left the army, completed a MBA and had business success, the ‘poisonous campaign’ of envy against him increased.

‘Some might call it the tall poppy syndrome,’ Mr McClintock said. ‘Others might just call it jealousy.’ 

Mr Roberts-Smith will spend the next two months in room 18D at the Law Courts Building in the central business district defending himself against claims he is a war criminal. 

‘I’m feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight,’ Mr Roberts-Smith told Daily Mail Australia ahead of the hearing.

His accusers have also assembled at the Federal Court as they try to prove on the balance of probabilities that Mr Roberts-Smith was involved in six murders during Australia’s longest war.    

Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured with the prosthetic leg of a fallen Afghani that was kept at the SAS base and used as a drinking vessel. Mr McClintock said this might seem in bad taste, 'but in the scheme of human wickedness it does not rate very high.' Mr Roberts-Smiths denies ever actually drinking from the leg

Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured with the prosthetic leg of a fallen Afghani that was kept at the SAS base and used as a drinking vessel. Mr McClintock said this might seem in bad taste, ‘but in the scheme of human wickedness it does not rate very high.’ Mr Roberts-Smiths denies ever actually drinking from the leg

The stakes of the case are enormous. It has unsurprisingly been dubbed the ‘trial of the century’. 

Legal sources have estimated Mr Roberts-Smith could reap damages of between $2-3million if his action is successful. 

Mr Roberts-Smith’s case is being bankrolled by the Seven Network’s owner, billionaire Kerry Stokes. The former soldier has taken leave as general manager of Seven’s Queensland operations for the duration of the hearing. 

The trial is the culmination of an almost three-year battle for Mr Roberts-Smith to clear his name – or for media giant Nine Entertainment to prove its sensational allegations against him. 

The 42-year-old Victoria Cross recipient is set to step into the witness box to defend his reputation this week. 

‘My client wants to get in the witness box and he wants to expose the lies that… the respondents have told about him,’ his barrister Bruce McClintock SC said at a recent hearing. ‘He’s extremely anxious to do so.’ 

Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the country’s top military honour for ‘selfless actions in circumstances of great peril’ while hunting a senior Taliban commander at Tizak in June 2010. 

During his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan, Mr Roberts-Smith had drawn enemy fire away from pinned-down members of his patrol, stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them.

'I'm feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight,' Mr Roberts-Smith told Daily Mail Australia ahead of the hearing

‘I’m feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight,’ Mr Roberts-Smith told Daily Mail Australia ahead of the hearing

The former soldier has taken leave as general manager of Seven's Queensland operations for the duration of the hearing

The former soldier has taken leave as general manager of Seven’s Queensland operations for the duration of the hearing

He had previously been awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions as a patrol scout and sniper near the Chora Pass in May 2006.

In his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith alleges Nine’s newspapers and its journalists Nick McKenzie, Chris Masters and David Wroe defamed him in what was then known as the Fairfax press in 2018.

Among his claims is that the publications wrongly made out that he ‘broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement and is therefore a criminal.’

Mr Roberts-Smith says the newspapers falsely implied his alleged conduct had disgraced his country and the Army.

His parents Len and Sue Roberts-Smith have come to Sydney to publicly support their son. Mr Roberts-Smith senior is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of Western Australia. 

‘The allegations have not only destroyed Ben’s life, but have affected us every day for the last several years,’ the couple said in a statement.

‘We never expected that our son would be unfairly attacked in this manner after he served his country in Afghanistan with distinction and risked his life.’

Nine Entertainment Co, the media giant which now owns the old Fairfax outlets, is defending their journalists’ claims on the basis the allegations are true. 

Mr Roberts-Smith has taken leave as boss of the Seven Network's Queensland operations for the duration of the hearing. His case is being bankrolled by Seven's owner, billionaire Kerry Stokes (pictured with wife Christine)

Mr Roberts-Smith has taken leave as boss of the Seven Network’s Queensland operations for the duration of the hearing. His case is being bankrolled by Seven’s owner, billionaire Kerry Stokes (pictured with wife Christine)

In his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith alleges Nine's newspapers and its journalists Nick McKenzie (pictured), David Wroe and Chris Masters defamed him in the then Fairfax press in 2018.

In his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith alleges Nine’s newspapers and its journalists Nick McKenzie (pictured), David Wroe and Chris Masters defamed him in the then Fairfax press in 2018.

Regular interruptions when matters of national security are raised during the case are predicted, meaning some of the hearing will be heard in a closed court. 

The newspapers will plead that Mr Roberts-Smith was complicit in and responsible for the murders of six people in Afghanistan, and that those alleged actions constituted war crimes. 

Nine dropped a seventh murder claim – that he swam across a river, chased an unarmed Afghan man into a cave and killed him on September 11, 2012 – days before the trial was due to begin.

The onetime corporal will be the first witness of an expected 60 to be called before Justice Anthony Besanko at what is expect to be a ten-week trial. 

After Mr McClintock gives his opening, the ex-soldier will give evidence and then face what is likely to be a week of cross-examination by lawyers for Nine. 

Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured shaking hands with the Queen at Buckingham Palace at a reception for the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association in 2018

Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured shaking hands with the Queen at Buckingham Palace at a reception for the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association in 2018

Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce pinned Mr Roberts-Smith's Victoria Cross to his chest (pictured) and was expected to give a character reference at trial, however reports have claimed she has withdrawn

Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce pinned Mr Roberts-Smith’s Victoria Cross to his chest (pictured) and was expected to give a character reference at trial, however reports have claimed she has withdrawn

Character witnesses will then testify on his behalf. Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce was expected to be among them but she has reportedly withdrawn, despite writing the soldier a signed reference.  

Nine’s witnesses will then testify. Mr Robert-Smith’s ex-wife Emma Roberts, the mother of his two children, is expected to give evidence for the publisher after ‘flipping’ sides. 

Mr McClintock has suggested her appearance is about airing the family’s ‘dirty laundry’ and warned he will have to call Ms Roberts a ‘liar’. 

Nicholas Owen SC for Nine previously told the court that Ms Roberts’ evidence would be include allegations of witness intimidation. 

Mr Robert-Smith has taken separate legal action against his ex-wife, accusing her of potentially hacking into his email account ahead of the defamation trial. 

One of his barristers, Arthur Moses SC, told the Federal Court last Friday evidence showed Ms Roberts ‘had access’ to an email account used by Mr Roberts-Smith to speak with his lawyers about an inquiry into Army conduct in the Afghanistan war.

His lawyers fear she may have shared some of that information with Nine.

Ms Roberts’ friend Danielle Scott, John McLeod – a former bodyguard of drug smuggler Schapelle Corby – alleged Afghani eye-witnesses and a handful of soldiers will also be called by Nine in the main trial. 

Then Mr Roberts-Smith’s team will call evidence from his other witnesses, understood to include other SAS soldiers. 

Among Mr Roberts-Smith's claims is that the Nine Entertainment publications wrongly made out that he 'broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement and is therefore a criminal.' Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured

Among Mr Roberts-Smith’s claims is that the Nine Entertainment publications wrongly made out that he ‘broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement and is therefore a criminal.’ Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured



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