War hero sues over ‘cat­a­logue of lies’

The Sunday Times - - News - JOHN FLINT

WITH his wife by his side, Vic­to­ria Cross win­ner Ben Roberts-Smith has given his first de­tailed re­sponse to a se­ries of anony­mous al­le­ga­tions against him.

He said the truth about what hap­pened dur­ing a bat­tle in Afghanistan and a Par­lia­ment House din­ner in Can­berra was far dif­fer­ent from what was pub­lished in Fair­fax Me­dia news­pa­pers yes­ter­day.

“My fam­ily and I sit here and won­der, what’s next?” Aus­tralia’s most dec­o­rated sol­dier told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

“What’s the next lie that’s go­ing to run in the pa­per? I’m not a politi­cian, I’m not fa­mous. I went and fought for my coun­try, and I’m be­ing at­tacked be­cause I fought for my coun­try and I got a medal. I just don’t un­der­stand how I to­day am sit­ting here in this po­si­tion. I re­ally don’t.”

The 39-year-old for­mer Spe­cial Air Ser­vices sol­dier from WA em­phat­i­cally de­nied a Fair­fax re­port on Fri­day that al­leged he’d had an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with a woman and that he’d been vi­o­lent to her af­ter a func­tion at Can­berra’s Par­lia­ment House.

“I have not at any stage been in­ter­viewed by po­lice about any pur­ported com­plaint by any woman,” Mr Roberts-Smith said. He said the Fair­fax re­ports were “a cat­a­logue of lies, fab­ri­ca­tions and mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions”.

He has lodged a defama­tion ac­tion in the Fed­eral Court in Syd­ney against Fair­fax Me­dia.

Mr Roberts-Smith ex­plained he was sep­a­rated from his wife Emma at the time of the al­leged in­ci­dent.

He said that while he was sum­mon­ing a car af­ter the Can­berra func­tion, the woman, who he said was heav­ily in­tox­i­cated, fell down a flight of stairs.

“When I got there, there were two Fed­eral po­lice of­fi­cers; they were ba­si­cally hold­ing her up. She had a huge lump on the top of her head and what ap­peared to be a scrape on the top of her eye and she said she had a sore hip.

“But she was very in­tox­i­cated to the point of be­ing in­co­her­ent, so they were lit­er­ally hold­ing her up.”

Mr Roberts-Smith said his wife knew about the re­la­tion­ship. They were now back to­gether.

“The fact that I have to ex­plain why my wife and I de­cided to have a break in our re­la­tion­ship, it’s a bit harsh,” he said.

The war hero also de­nied any wrong­do­ing on the bat­tle­field. He said he was yet to be in­ter­viewed by the In­spec­tor-Gen­eral of the Aus­tralian De­fence Force, who is con­duct­ing an in­quiry into al­leged war crimes in Afghanistan.

Mr Roberts-Smith spoke about an in­ci­dent in 2006 in which an Afghan spot­ter was shot dead. There have been sug­ges­tions the man was a shep­herd and not a Tal­iban scout.

“Let’s say he might have been a shep­herd,” Mr Roberts-Smith told The Week­end Aus­tralian. “There was no sheep up there. It’s hard to be a shep­herd if there’s no sheep. The guy was a spot­ter. He was en­gaged and when he was en­gaged there was some kind of ord­nance that he was car­ry­ing, whether it was a flare, a smoke grenade and RPG booster — what­ever it was, that det­o­nated. That essen­tially con­firmed he was a spot­ter.”

Mr Roberts-Smith also de­nied claims he had as­saulted Afghan de­tainees as a “fab­ri­ca­tion”. He be­lieves a small group of dis­grun­tled SAS troop­ers are smear­ing him to the me­dia as part of a “hatchet job”.

“If and when I am given the op­por­tu­nity to de­fend each spe­cific al­le­ga­tion, I am very con­fi­dent that di­rect wit­nesses will cat­e­gor­i­cally demon­strate the fal­sity of them all,” he said in a state­ment on Fri­day.

Veter­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Dar­ren Ch­ester called for calm yes­ter­day.

Mr Ch­ester said ev­i­dence was still be­ing gath­ered for the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Aus­tralian De­fence Force, with a re­port ex­pected in the com­ing months.

“Hav­ing a trial by me­dia, as it were, would be un­for­tu­nate,” Mr Ch­ester said.

Bren­dan Nel­son, di­rec­tor of the Aus­tralian War Memo­rial, said it ap­peared that “sec­tions of the Aus­tralian me­dia have been run­ning a cam­paign against Spe­cial Forces gen­er­ally and Ben Roberts-Smith specif­i­cally over the last few months”.

“Aus­tralians need to un­der­stand that we have amongst us a small num­ber of he­roes,” Dr Nel­son said.

“Ben Roberts-Smith is one of them. He fought for our coun­try. He was awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross and the Medal of Gal­lantry. It’s a mir­a­cle the man is not dead. There are Aus­tralian soldiers home tonight with their fam­i­lies be­cause of his courage.

“This man is a hero and our na­tion needs to be­lieve in our he­roes un­less there is ab­so­lutely in­con­tro­vert­ible ev­i­dence to the al­ter­na­tive.”

Stand­ing firm: Afghanistan vet­eran Ben Roberts-Smith with his wife Emma Pic­ture: Lyn­don Mechielsen/The Aus­tralian

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