Text messages sent by Ben Roberts-Smith’s former wife in support of the war hero before he was publicly accused of killing prisoners have been released.
Emma Roberts says in one message to her friend Danielle Scott that ‘someone has said a hell of a lot about Ben but they also have to prove it.’
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing Nine newspapers over stories they published in June 2018 accusing him of committing war crimes while serving in Afghanistan with the SAS.
The texts from Ms Roberts to Ms Scott were sent a month before the first story’s publication. She has since agreed to give evidence against him.
Mr Roberts-Smith left Ms Roberts in January 2020 and she gave a statement to Nine a fortnight after their divorce was settled in February this year.
When the contents of the texts were first read in court last month, Australia’s most decorated soldier took a swipe at his now ex-wife over some of what she had said to Ms Scott.
Text messages sent by Ben Roberts-Smith’s former wife in support of the war hero before he was publicly accused of killing prisoners have been released. Emma Roberts has since flipped and is giving evidence for Nine newspapers. The former couple is pictured in London in 2012
Emma Roberts says in one message to her friend Danielle Scott that ‘someone has said a hell of a lot about Ben but they also have to prove it.’ Mr Roberts-Smith (right) is suing Nine newspapers over a series of stories accusing him of committing war crimes in Afghanistan
Mr Roberts-Smith is Australia’s most decorated living soldier. His defamation trial against Nine has been disrupted by Covid-19 but resumed this week to take evidence from three Afghan witnesses about the death of a man called Ali Jan at Darwan in 2012
The Victoria Cross recipient was giving evidence about what another SAS member known as Person 5 had told an offical inquiry into alleged war crimes.
Person 5 and Mr Roberts-Smith were both being investigated by the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force (IGADF).
Person 5 had been Mr Roberts-Smith’s patrol commander in Afghanistan and was called in to be questioned by the IGADF on May 9, 2018.
He had been due to fly to the United States after giving evidence to the inquiry.
Barrister Nicholas Owens SC, for Nine, suggested Person 5 subsequently revealed to Mr Roberts-Smith ‘in very great detail’ various allegations that had been made about his service in Afghanistan.
The court heard discussing what was said during such interviews was against Defence regulations.
Mr Roberts-Smith told the court Person 5, who was a close friend, had merely sent him a letter of complaint about his treatment by the IGADF investigators.
Part of that letter said: ‘They were pushing the fact that BRS wandered off whenever he wanted and did whatever he wanted’ while on deployment in Afghanistan.
Mr Owens read from text messages Ms Roberts sent to Ms Scott after Person 5 gave evidence to the inquiry.
A series of text messages between Emma Roberts and her friend Danielle Scott relate to evidence given by Mr Roberts-Smith’s fellow SAS member Person 5 to an inquiry into alleged war crimes in Afghanistan
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 June 4
‘Hey mate, [Person 5] rang BRS late [followed by a sad face emoji],’ the first message said. ‘He was drilled for hours! Lots of questions about Ben and even to the point of questioning his VC action [sad face].
‘Hence to say he didn’t get much sleep. [Person 5] was free to leave for the US with 5 hrs until his flight!!
Ms Scott: ‘So if they let [Person 5] go… that’s gotta be a good sign right?’
Ms Roberts: ‘Yeh. [followed by a thumbs-up emoji] It’s obvious that someone has said a hell of a lot about Ben. But they also have to be able to prove it.’
Mr Roberts-Smith denied the texts showed he told his wife that Person 5 had disclosed detailed information about allegations against him which had been revealed while Person 5 was being interviewed.
‘It looks like she’s forming her own opinion which is reasonably typical of my ex-wife,’ he told the court.
Ms Roberts and Ms Scott have said they will give evidence for Nine. Person 5 is listed to give evidence for Mr Roberts-Smith.
Ben Roberts-Smith’s Victoria Cross made him the most famous soldier in Australia but also allegedly led to jealousy among some of his colleagues. The Queen is pictured shaking hands with him during an audience at Buckingham Palace in November 2011
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing newspapers including the Sydney Morning Herald which ran this front page investigation into allegations of war crimes committed in Afghanistan on the weekend of June 9 and 10, 2018
Person 5 features in allegations of war crimes Nine has made about a raid on a compound called Whiskey 108 at Kakarak in southern Afghanistan on April 12, 2009.
That day Mr Roberts-Smith shot dead an Afghan male with a prosthetic leg. Nine claims that man was a prisoner but Mr Roberts-Smith says he was an insurgent armed with a rifle.
Mr Roberts-Smith has also denied standing by while a junior SAS member (Person 4) killed a second Afghan male taken into custody at Whiskey 108 in a ‘blooding’ custom.
Mr Owens said Person 5 had told Person 4 to shoot the prisoners, an old man wearing a white robe. ‘That’s completely false,’ Mr Roberts-Smith responded.
Mr Owens claimed Mr Roberts-Smith or Person 4 had asked to borrow a suppressor to silence one of their weapons from a soldier called Person 41.
Mr Roberts-Smith is pictured with his new girlfriend Sarah Matulin attending the Magic Millions races together on the Queensland Gold Coast in January this year
Mr Roberts-Smith shot dead a man with a prosthetic leg on a mission in 2009. The leg was souvenired by another soldier and taken back to the SAS base at Takin Kowt where it was used as a drinking vessel. Another soldier is pictured drinking from the leg
He claimed Mr Roberts-Smith forced the old man to the ground and told Person 4, ‘Shoot him’. Mr Roberts-Smith denied all of it. ‘That is completely false.’
Mr Roberts-Smith denied he then carried the prisoner with the prosthetic leg out of the compound, threw him on the ground and shot him with an extended burst from his machine gun.
Mr Owens said when Mr Roberts-Smith realised Person 4 had seen the execution he asked him, ‘Are we cool?’ Mr Roberts-Smith replied: ‘No, that’s a lie.’
Mr Roberts-Smith has said the man with the prosthetic leg had been armed with a bolt-action rifle and the other with a machine gun.
He said no Afghans were found in a tunnel or taken prisoner, as alleged by the newspapers, and Person 5 had not discussed ‘blooding rookies’.
The trial has heard that a soldier known as Person 6 who was one of Mr Roberts-Smith’s ‘enemies’, souvenired the leg as a war trophy.
The leg was kept at the SAS base and used as a drinking vessel at the regiment’s unofficial bar, the Fat Lady’s Arms.
Mr Roberts-Smith has told the Federal Court he had an affair with a woman known in the proceedings as Person 17 from about October 2017 until April 2018 while he was temporarily separated from his wife.
How Ben Roberts-Smith won his VC
Ben Roberts-Smith (pictured) joined the Army in 1996 and completed the Special Air Service selection course in 2003. He completed six tours of Afghanistan (2006-2012)
Barrister Bruce McClintock read this summary of Ben Roberts-Smith’s military service up to the battle in which he was awarded the Victoria Cross:
‘Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith enlisted in the Australian Regular Army in 1996. After completing the requisite courses, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment, where he saw active service in East Timor.
In January 2003, he successfully completed the Australian Special Air Service Regiment selection course. During his tenure with the regiment, he deployed on Operation Valiant, Slate, Slipper, Catalyst, and Slipper 2. Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith was awarded the Medal for Gallantry for his actions in Afghanistan in 2006.
On 11 June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault in Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander. Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from multiple dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated, fortified position to the south of the village.
Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70m of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative. Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Corporal Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40m, the weight of fire prevented further movement forward.
At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure. As he approached the structure, Corporal Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throws of engaging his patrol. Corporal Roberts-Smith instinctively engaged the insurgent at point-blank range, resulting in the death of the insurgent.
With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire against the enemy. His actions enabled his patrol commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns.
Seizing the advantage and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Corporal Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position, killing the two remaining machine gunners. His act of valour enabled his patrol to break into the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop, who had been pinned down by the machine gun.
On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts-Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy position in depth, during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in the Shah Wali Kot district to retreat from the area.
Corporal Roberts-Smith’s most conspicuous gallantry in a circumstance of extreme peril was instrumental to the seizure of the initiative and the success of the troop against a numerically superior enemy force. His valour was an inspiration for the soldiers with whom he fought alongside and is in keeping with the finest traditions of the Australian Army and the Australian Defence Force.’