Ben Roberts-Smith still a war hero in eyes of supporters after landing at Perth Airport

Video showing Ben Roberts-Smith is still a hero in the eyes of many Australians: ‘Thank you for your service mate’

  • Fallen former soldier spotted at Perth Airport
  • Ben Roberts-Smith arrived with girlfriend Sarah Matulin
  • He said outcome of defamation trial was ‘devastating’

Fallen war hero Ben Roberts-Smith found support from a member of the public when he flew back into Australia from New Zealand on Wednesday night.  

As Mr Roberts-Smith made his way through Perth Airport a middle-aged man passing by pointed his finger at the Victoria Cross winner and said: ‘Thank you for your service mate’.

The Afghanistan veteran responded by saying: ‘Thank you mate. Appreciate it’.

Mr Roberts-Smith broke his silence for the first time since losing his long-running defamation case by saying he was ‘devastated’ by the result. 

Australia’s most decorated living soldier was first spotted in Queenstown Airport in New Zealand boarding a flight to Australia before touching down in Perth.

Australia’s most decorated living soldier was first spotted in Queenstown Airport in New Zealand boarding a flight to Australia on Wednesday before touching down in Perth

The sighting came ten days after Mr Roberts-Smith lost his defamation action against The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times.

He spoke about the judgment for the first time as he touched down in his home town alongside girlfriend Sarah Matulin. 

‘It’s a terrible outcome. It’s the incorrect outcome,’ he told reporters.

‘We haven’t done anything wrong so we won’t be making any apologies.’

Mr Roberts-Smith said he was ‘proud’ of how he acted when serving for Australia. 

Ms Matulin, who wore a comfy white jumper and black leggings, was flanked by airport police as she waited for her boyfriend to speak to the waiting media. 

The 44-year-old told reporters he would be looking to consider whether to file an appeal against the decision.

The former Special Air Service corporal had been seen in Bali the day before the verdict of the ‘trial of the century’ was handed down.

The former SAS soldier arrived in his home town of Perth joined by girlfriend Sarah Matulin 

Justice Anthony Besanko ruled that the allegations against Mr Roberts-Smith, which include war crimes and murders, were proven to a civil standard of the balance of probabilities.

Mr Roberts-Smith has not faced any criminal charges.

In the wake of the findings, many have called for Mr Roberts-Smith to be stripped of his medals, including the Victoria Cross, and to have mention of him removed from the Australian War Memorial.

Meanwhile, former SAS captain and federal MP Andrew Hastie, who testified against Mr Roberts-Smith at the defamation trial, has spoken about the judgment.

He said sadness and relief at the finding.

‘Sadness for the Afghan lives lost and the families who are hurt, sadness for the relationships severed and sadness for the reputations destroyed, both individually and at the institutional level with the SASR particularly,’ he told the ABC.

‘Relief, though, that the cold hard truth that many of the regiment have been carrying inside them for many years, is now out in the public domain and it has been validated by a Federal Court Justice.’

Mr Hastie, who is now the Opposition defence spokesman, praised the soldiers that raised the claims.

‘They’ve shown moral courage. They’ve been brave,’ Mr Hastie told the ABC.

‘I honour their work, because it’s they who have demonstrated that the regiment has a moral pulse, that the regiment can self-correct. And it’s they who have repudiated the toxic culture and behaviour.’

The Brereton inquiry into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan, which handed down its report in 2021, found credible evidence 39 Afghan civilians were killed by Australian special forces during the war.

It identified 25 current or former ADF personnel as alleged perpetrators, either as principals or accessories.