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Here’s the latest on the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial

Ben Roberts-Smith

TW: Domestic Abuse

An ex-girlfriend of Ben Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross recipient who served in Afghanistan, has told a court he punched her in the face and pressured her to lie about it.

The woman appeared in court yesterday as a witness in Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial.

The defamation case

Roberts-Smith is suing Nine newspapers for articles alleging domestic violence, bullying of fellow soldiers, and unlawful killings in Afghanistan. The former soldier denies the allegations and says the articles damaged his reputation.

The Nine newspapers argue the claims are true, so the trial is examining the claims.

Person 17

The ex-girlfriend, referred to as ‘Person 17’ in Court to keep anonymity, said Roberts-Smith “punched me with his right fist on the left side of my face and eye” in a Canberra hotel room after a function at Parliament House in March 2018.

Person 17 told the Court she denied memory of the incident to Roberts-Smith the next day because she was “afraid of what he would do if I didn’t say that”. She added that Roberts-Smith replied “good girl, you hurt yourself when you fell over”. Roberts-Smith has denied hitting the woman.

The Court was told earlier in the trial that Roberts-Smith had paid a private investigator to follow Person 17 to an abortion clinic when she became pregnant, and forced her to take two pregnancy tests in front of him.

The private investigator has also spoken as a witness in the trial, saying he stopped working for Roberts-Smith after he was asked to send threatening messages to two soldiers. Roberts-Smith has denied this.

Person 24

Earlier this month, a former soldier (‘Person 24’) told the Court he saw Roberts-Smith kill an Afghan man outside of a combat situation, which is unlawful.

The Nine newspapers have argued Roberts-Smith committed or contributed to six murders of Afghans outside of combat situations. Roberts-Smith says any killings were lawful and in battle.

Person 1

Last month, a different soldier (‘Person 1’) said Roberts-Smith bullied him and on one occasion threatened him with a “bullet in the back of the head” if his performance didn’t improve.

A third soldier (‘Person 41’) said Roberts-Smith shot an elderly man and a man with a prosthetic leg during a raid on a compound, which Roberts-Smith has also denied.

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