Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith is limbering up for one of his toughest battles as he fights for his reputation in a much anticipated defamation trial against Nine Entertainment this week.
The Victoria Cross recipient appeared every bit the determined warrior as he ripped off his singlet during 20 consecutive stair sessions on the daunting ‘Steps of Doom’ at Woolloomooloo in Sydney’s east last week.
‘I’m feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight,’ Mr Roberts-Smith said when approached by Daily Mail Australia, after a set of one-legged push ups.
It comes amid a sensational development in the case: the ex-Special Air Services trooper, 42, is separately suing his ex-wife Emma Roberts, accusing her of hacking into his emails as she prepared to testify against him in court.
A tense Ms Roberts was seen returning to her white-picket fenced Brisbane home, shortly after it was revealed she had been ordered to explain what information she may have obtained from her ex-husband’s emails, and how.
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine-owned newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over allegations he committed war crimes while on deployment in Afghanistan, which he vehemently denies.
The case has been dubbed the ‘trial of the century’ – and the stakes are enormous.
Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith has limbered up for battle as he prepares to take to the witness box and give evidence at the defamation ‘trial of the century’ this week
Emma Roberts – the soldier’s ex-wife – is planning to testify for Nine at the trial, after ‘flipping’ on Mr Roberts-Smith. But he has now sued her for allegedly breaking into his email account. Above, she is seen in a woolen poncho at home in Brisbane
Mr Roberts-Smith, above, tackled a notorious set of steps in Sydney’s east on Friday morning. ‘I’m feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight,’ Mr Roberts-Smith told Daily Mail Australia
Mr Roberts-Smith performed one-legged push ups at one point during a 40 minute exercise session where he tackled the 113 steps of the ‘stairs of hell’ in Sydney’s east
The lawsuit 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 claims.
The soldier’s reputation as the ‘most distinguished’ veteran of the Afghanistan campaigns is on the line, as is the myth of the Australian Digger.
Mr Roberts-Smith is said to be keen to step into the witness box to tell his side of the story, in detail, for the first time, which is likely to happen 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 once celebrated for his heroism on the battlefield, with officials crowing about how proud they were of him.
‘I’m feeling good mate, looking forward to finally setting the record straight
Ben Roberts-Smith to Daily Mail Australia
The West Australian-born son of a judge was awarded the country’s top honour for ‘selfless actions in circumstances of great peril’ hunting a senior Taliban commander during his fifth tour of duty in Afghanistan in June 2010.
Mr Roberts-Smith drew enemy fire away from pinned down members of his patrol, stormed two enemy machine-gun posts and silenced them, resulting in a tactical victory.
He was feted as a war hero in the years that followed by prime ministers and governors-general – but controversy has since taken its place.
The soldier is ‘extremely anxious’ to get in the witness box, his barrister Bruce McClintock SC said at a hearing in April – an opportunity that he will get in a matter of days
Mr Roberts-Smith was awarded the Victoria Cross for ‘selfless’ actions in Afghanistan and will now fighting for his reputation in the Federal Court, claiming he was smeared by media giant Nine Entertainment
The soldier launched his lawsuit against Nine’s newspapers The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times in 2018. Should he succeed in his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith could reap damages of up to $3million, legal sources estimated – but the stakes are high
Mr Roberts-Smith tackled the McElhoe stairs in Woolloomooloo in a torn ’embrace pain’ muscle shirt, alongside other runners and walkers
Mr Roberts-Smith’s brutal morning exercise regime came amid what has no doubt been a long period of preparation for his defamation lawsuit
In his lawsuit, Mr Roberts-Smith alleges that the newspapers and its journalists wrongly made out that he ‘broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement and is therefore a criminal’.
Mr Roberts-Smith said the newspapers falsely implied that he had disgraced his country, and the Army, with his alleged conduct, along with a slew of further accusations.
But Nine Entertainment Co, the media giant which now owns the news outlets, is defending its claims on the basis its allegations were true.
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 the river, chased an unarmed Afghan man into a cave and killed him on September 11, 2012 – days before the trial was due to begin.
It has become increasingly clear what the public can expect over the 10 weeks the trial will unfold. Mud will be thrown, murder claims asserted and some of the country’s biggest names invoked.
The former Corporal will be the first witness of an expected 60.
After Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer gives his opening, the ex-soldier will give his evidence and then face what is likely to be a grueling cross-examination by Nine’s lawyers.
Character witnesses will then testify on his behalf. Former governor-general, Dame Quentin Bryce, was expected to be one of them however she has reportedly withdrawn, despite writing the soldier a signed reference.
Nine’s witnesses will then testify – an unusual assortment of characters including Mr Robert-Smith’s ex-wife Ms Roberts, the mother of his two children, who has ‘flipped’ sides.
Mr McClintock for Roberts-Smith has warned that he will have to call Ms Roberts a ‘liar’ at trial and suggested her appearance is about airing the family’s ‘dirty laundry’.
Mr Roberts-Smith was photographed (left and right) just days before his defamation case, dubbed the ‘trial of the century’, is expected to begin
Mr Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife Emma has ‘flipped’ and is giving evidence for Nine. The former soldier is also suing her for allegedly accessing his emails illegally
Former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce pinned Mr Roberts-Smith’s Victoria Cross to his chest and was expected to give a character reference at trial, however reports have claimed she has withdrawn
Mr Roberts-Smith was greeted by an acquaintance during his morning workout, not far from a naval base in the city’s east
Nicholas Owen SC for Nine previously told the court that Ms Roberts’ evidence will be carefully limited to matters at hand, including allegations of witness intimidation.
Ms Roberts’ friend Danielle Scott, John McLeod (a former bodyguard of Schapelle Corby’s), alleged Afghani eye-witnesses and a handful of soldiers will round out Nine’s witness list.
Then Mr Roberts-Smith’s team will call evidence from his other witnesses, understood to include other Diggers.
Mr Roberts-Smith’s case is being bankrolled by Channel Seven proprietor and billionaire Kerry Stokes, who is also the chairman of the Australian War Memorial and is understood to have close ties to the Special Air Service in Perth.
If rival media outlet Nine loses the case it will be a devastating blow to the company – both in financial terms, given hefty legal fees on top of multi-million dollar damages, and also for morale.
However, should Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawsuit fail his reputation would be in tatters.
Whatever happens, in the coming weeks the soldier will just have embrace the pain – as his singlet says.
REVEALED: Why Ben Roberts-Smith is suing his ex-wife for allegedly hacking into his email
Ms Roberts is being sued by her husband, with the ex-soldier alleging she potentially broke into his email account, and may have deleted messages from his inbox and outbox
Ben Roberts-Smith has sensationally taken legal action against his ex-wife Emma, accusing her of potentially hacking into his email account ahead of his defamation ‘trial of the century’ against Nine.
The reason behind the former Special Air Service trooper’s sudden lawsuit against Ms Roberts was revealed in the Federal Court on Friday by one of his barristers, Arthur Moses SC.
Mr Moses told the court that 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 that she may have shared some of that information with Nine, the media giant he is suing over allegations it published alleging he committed war crimes while deployed in Afghanistan.
Ms Roberts is expected to testify for Nine at the trial, after flipping on her husband and father of her two children.
At the centre of Mr Roberts-Smith’s concerns is that Nine had sought documents from him on April 19, including emails and attachments.
Mr Moses told the court that Mr Roberts-Smith had also found emails ‘had also been deleted from the inbox and outbox’ of his account without his consent.
The emails that were allegedly accessed may have contained potentially privileged material, the court heard.
If such material had been handed to Nine it could cause legal issues with the defamation case and even risk delaying it. Ms Roberts has handed paperwork to the court about the issue and her case returns to court at a later date.