Dame Quentin Bryce, the former governor general who pinned Ben Roberts-Smith’s Victoria Cross to his chest, is understood to be seeking to withdraw from giving evidence on his behalf in his upcoming defamation trial.
Roberts-Smith’s high-profile action against three newspapers begins in just over a week, and Bryce has been publicly nominated as having agreed to offer character evidence in his defence.
Roberts-Smith visited Bryce unannounced at her home in Queensland this week.
As recently as late April, his legal team declared in court that Bryce would be called as a reputation witness, having previously written the former soldier a reference.
sin embargo, the Guardian understands Bryce has been contemplating withdrawing from giving evidence for several weeks.
The Guardian approached Roberts-Smith’s legal team late last month seeking confirmation Bryce had indicated she wished to withdraw. His lawyers did not respond.
The Guardian has also sought confirmation from Bryce.
Bryce became acquainted with Roberts-Smith and his then wife Emma after he was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2010.
As governor general, she formally awarded the medal to him in a ceremony at Perth’s Campbell Barracks in January 2011.
Roberts-Smith and Emma are now estranged, and she is scheduled to give evidence against him in the defamation hearing.
Roberts-Smith is suing the Nine network’s Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, and the Canberra Times, for defamation over a series of reports published in 2018 which he alleges portrayed him as a murderous war criminal during his deployments as an SAS soldier in Afghanistan between 2009 y 2012.
Roberts-Smith, 42, the most decorated soldier in the commonwealth, has consistently denied the allegations, saying they were “false”, “baseless” and “completely without any foundation in truth”. He will be the first witness called in the trial.
The newspapers will run a truth defence to their reporting.
The defamation trial, expected to run for 10 semanas, begins in Sydney on 7 junio.