Ben Roberts-Smith’s new lover is supporting the ex-soldier through his defamation ‘trial of the century’ from 900km away in Brisbane.
Sarah Matulin, 28, has kept well away from the first two days of the 42-year-old Victoria Cross recipient’s case against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times over war crimes allegations.
It is believed that Mr Roberts-Smith wishes to shield Ms Matulin – who he met when she was working at Channel Seven – from the spotlight.
The country’s most decorated soldier’s former West Australian Supreme Court judge father Len and mother Sue have instead stepped into the glare, accompanying him each day to court.
The case is already getting ugly, with Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer this week ‘entirely’ denying a claim, published by Nine, that he punched a former mistress in the face, with the Federal Court hearing he abhors violence against women.
Meanwhile, the former soldier’s ex-wife Emma Roberts is slated to testify for Nine, the media giant which owns the Herald and The Age, in a matter of weeks.
Ms Matulin was photographed happily enjoying a lunch break with a workmate on Tuesday, about the same time Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyer was telling a court in Sydney how the soldier’s reputation had been ruined by the media.
Ben Roberts-Smith’s new lover, Sarah Matulin, has been supporting Australia’s most decorated soldier through his defamation case from 900km away in Brisbane
Ms Matulin, 28, met Mr Roberts-Smith, 42, while working for Channel Seven, where he was general manager of the state division. She has since quit
Australia’s most decorated soldier Ben Roberts-Smith (centre) is suing three newspapers and three journalists he says destroyed his reputation as a war hero. Lawyer Bruce McClintock is on left
During the second day of the the high-stakes defamation trial, barrister Bruce McClintock SC said Mr Roberts-Smith had lost about $475,000 in earnings since he was accused of murdering six Afghan citizens.
Mr Roberts-Smith had been paid $320,000 for public speaking in the 2018 financial year before Nine newspapers published stories alleging he murdered six Afghanis.
Mr McClintock said the effect of those stories had been to ‘smash and destroy’ the Victoria Cross recipient’s reputation.
‘In 2018… there could not have been a former soldier better known or more highly respected than my client,’ Mr McClintock told the court.
That all changed after newspapers including The Age and Sydney Morning Herald accused Mr Roberts-Smith of war crimes and domestic violence in August 2018, he said.
Mr Roberts-Smith would be seeking aggravated damages because according to Mr McClintock, the publisher knew some of their claims to be false.
The stories had been presented in a ‘sensational’ manner, included ‘unjustifiable allegations of murder’ and had not been withdrawn.
Whereas Mr Roberts-Smith was once much in demand as a speaker, even invitations to Anzac Day ceremonies stopped.
Ms Matulin’s Tuesday in Brisbane took a very different form to Mr Roberts-Smith, as he listened to his lawyer’s opening address for the second day at Sydney’s Federal Court
Daily Mail Australia revealed Mr Roberts-Smith and Ms Matulin were in a relationship earlier this year. Above, the couple attend the Magic Millions race day on the Gold Coast in January
Ms Matulin began a relationship with Mr Roberts-Smith while the pair worked together at Seven. She has since left and now works for a communications agency in Brisbane
The former soldier had also been offered a partnership in a big accounting firm on a salary higher than he was earning as the Queensland general manager of Seven West Media but pulled out of that job.
Mr McClintock said it was ‘not a competition’ to set records for damages payouts but his client would need a sufficient amount to be compensated for the loss of his reputation and hurt.
‘The more serious the attack the greater the amount of money that’s necessary to vindicate,’ Mr McClintock said.
He said an accountant would estimate Mr Roberts-Smith had lost $475,000 from speaking engagements alone.
Mr McClintock also confirmed former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce, who had presented Mr Roberts-Smith with his VC, would not be giving character evidence on his behalf ‘for personal reasons’ but had never withdrawn her support.
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
The parents of Mr Roberts-Smith, Len and Sue Roberts-Smith, have stepped into the glare, accompanying their son to court each day and speaking out in his defence
Mr Roberts-Smith’s accusers have also assembled at the Federal Court as they try to prove on the balance of probabilities that he was involved in six murders during Australia’s longest war
On Monday the court heard that a woman Mr Roberts-Smith had a romance with – known as Person 17 – had not made any allegation of assault against Mr Roberts-Smith until after he ended their relationship.
Mr McClintock 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 love 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.
‘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.’
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.
Nine executive editor of Australian Metro Publishing James Chessell (left) and editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Lisa Davies (right) arrive at the court
‘This is a case about courage, devotion to duty, self-sacrifice and perhaps most important of all, surpassing skill in soldiering,’ Mr McClintock told Justice Anthony Besanko.
‘On the other hand, your Honour, it’s 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 had sent overseas to fight and die for more than a century.
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’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 is also suing his ex-wife Emma Roberts, claiming she broke into his email account. She is pictured outside her Brisbane home on Friday
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.
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.
The case continues.