Ben Roberts-Smith wrote threatening letters to SAS soldier and set fire to his own laptop, 裁判所は言った

Victoria Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith has been accused in court, by newspapers defending a defamation claim, of writing an anonymous threat letter to another SAS soldier, warning him he would “go down” for murder if he did not recant his evidence to a military inquiry into war crimes allegations.

“You and others have worked together to spread lies and rumours to the media and the inspector general’s inquiry,” the printed letter, mailed in 2018 to a soldier who had served alongside Roberts-Smith, 前記.

“You have one chance to save yourself. You must approach the inquiry and admit that you have colluded with others to spread lies.

“We are very aware of your many murderous actions over many tours in Afghanistan, including specific dates … just like when you took part in the execution of two persons-under-control at Tizak. You know what you have done and so do we.

“Don’t forget this because it will not go away. You will go down, better to take a reprimand than murder charges.”

In the federal court Roberts-Smith himself was accused of being the author of the letter, of wearing gloves to prepare and print off the document, of buying stamps from a number of different shops, and of instructing a private investigator to address and mail the sealed envelope he had placed it in.

It was alleged he later told his then wife – who will give evidence in this trial – that he was responsible for the letter.

In court in Sydney on Wednesday, Roberts-Smith denied all of the allegations.

The court heard that following the 2018 publication of newspaper articles he argues allege he was responsible for war crimes during his deployments with the SAS in Afghanistan, Roberts-Smith bought burner phones so he could communicate with former comrades by encrypted apps that could not be traced.

Recordings of phone calls allegedly show Roberts-Smith telling other soldiers he was communicating by encrypted apps “because intelligence agencies can’t intercept them”.

The court also heard that Roberts-Smith poured petrol on a laptop and set it on fire in June 2018 “to destroy the hard-drive”. He said this was unexceptional, and he had previously burned computers to protect private information such as passwords.

Roberts-Smith told the court he was behind written allegations – sent to the AFP commissioner, parliamentarians, and a newspaper reporter – suggesting another SAS soldier Roberts-Smith regarded as his “enemy” had smuggled undeclared guns into Afghanistan so they could be used undetected.

The soldier’s house in Perth was raided, but no illegal weapons were found. No charges were ever laid.

On Wednesday afternoon, evidence in Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial against three newspapers he argues have alleged he committed war crimes focused on allegations of witness intimidation and interference.

Under cross-examination from Nicholas Owens SC, Roberts-Smith denied having any involvement with four anonymous threat letters, two of which were sent to a serving SAS member, known in court documents as Person 18.

Owens alleged Roberts-Smith printed off the letters at the offices of Channel Seven, where he worked, and visited several shops to buy stamps. He also alleged Roberts-Smith had previously asked a family friend – who will give evidence in this trial – if stamps could be traced.

He then allegedly passed the letters in sealed, stamped envelopes to a private investigator, John McLeod, along with instructions to address them and post them to two soldiers Roberts-Smith believed was speaking to the media about him.

Roberts-Smith allegedly handed over the letters in a blue folder in a Bunnings store. He did not tell McLeod the nature of the letters. McLeod subsequently mailed two of the letters, both to Person 18. The other two were not posted, 裁判所は聞いた.

Person 18 had previously been called to give sworn testimony to the inspector general of the Australian Defence Force, who was conducting an inquiry into war crimes allegations in Afghanistan, which formed the basis of the Brereton Report.

Owens put it to Roberts-Smith that he was later confronted about the letters by his then wife, Emma Roberts.

“What the fuck are you doing? What the fuck is this all about” Roberts reportedly said.

“I sent a letter to [P18],” Roberts-Smith allegedly replied.

“No more fucking lies Ben, you know they can trace your fingerpints and where the letter was printed.”

"番号, I used gloves and printed them off at the Channel Seven offices.”

Roberts-Smith denied any involvement in the letter and said the conversation with his wife never occurred.

“That’s not true,」彼は法廷に語った.

The court heard John McLeod, a former policeman who boasted of good contacts within law enforcement circles, was also allegedly involved in sparking a police investigation into alleged gun-smuggling by SAS member Person 6.

Roberts-Smith told the court he was convinced Person 6 was speaking to journalists and was behind a “whispering campaign” to discredit him with false allegations.

Roberts-Smith said he wanted to “expose his character” and demonstrate Person 6 “could not be trusted”.

Roberts-Smith told the court he gave McLeod a document detailing allegations that Person 6 had smuggled two assault weapons into Afghanistan so they would be untraceable if “anything untoward” happened on the battlefield. The highly detailed document also alleged Person 6 threatened to bash another soldier who alerted commanders that the rifles did not exist in military records.

Roberts-Smith told the court he gave McLeod the document containing the allegations, but never instructed him to alert the federal police.

“I didn’t instruct him to do it. I told him if he wanted to take it to the AFP, he could do that, I’ve got no problem with that.”

The document was emailed to three people: the commissioner of the federal police; then senator Nick Xenophon; and a journalist on the Australian newspaper.

Person 6’s Perth home was raided by West Australian police, but no illegal weapons were found. No charges were laid.

Roberts-Smith said that after he became aware of a formal complaint against him – signed by Person 6 – and a whispering campaign seeking to discredit him, he became concerned journalists were tapping his phone and intercepting his communications.

He said he poured petrol on a laptop computer and set fire to it in 2018 because he did not want his personal information, such as passwords or photos, accessed by anybody else. But he insisted he had destroyed hard-drives this way many times before out of concern for his privacy and data security.

Roberts-Smith said he never improperly spoke to other soldiers about their evidence before the inspector general – a criminal offence – but had had general conversations to support them.

Of one soldier he had dinner with following his evidence: “I was very keen to make sure he wasn’t going to top himself, because it’s quite a horrendous process.”

Asked repeatedly if he was giving truthful evidence, Roberts-Smith said he was only ever concerned with determining “what the truth of the matter is”.

“You were beginning to panic in June 2018 because there were investigations into your conduct in Afghanistan?,” Owens put to Roberts-Smith.

"番号, that’s not true.”

Robert-Smith’s cross-examination in open court will continue Thursday morning.

Roberts-Smith, one of the most decorated soldiers in Australian military 歴史, is suing the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times for defamation over a series of ­reports published in 2018. He alleges the reports are defamatory because they portray him as someone who “broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement” and committed war crimes, including six allegations of murder.

The 42-year-old has consistently denied the allegations, saying they are “false”, “baseless” and “completely without any foundation in truth”. The newspapers are defending their reporting as true.