Ben Roberts-Smith has broken his silence for the first time since losing his major defamation case, saying he is ‘devastated’ by the result.
Australia’s most decorated living soldier was first spotted at New Zealand’s Queenstown Airport on Wednesday as he boarded a flight to Australia before landing in Perth.
The sighting came 10 days after Mr Roberts-Smith lost his libel action against The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times.
He first spoke about the verdict when he landed in his hometown of Perth, along with girlfriend Sarah Matulin.
Australia’s most decorated living soldier was first spotted at New Zealand’s Queenstown Airport on Wednesday as he boarded a flight to Australia before landing in Perth
The former SAS soldier arrived in his hometown of Perth with girlfriend Sarah Matulin
“It’s a terrible result. It’s the wrong outcome,” he told Nine News.
“We didn’t do anything wrong, so we won’t apologize.”
Mr Roberts-Smith said he was ‘proud’ of how he behaved while serving for Australia, while a member of the public thanked him for his services.
Ms. Matulin, wearing a comfortable white sweater and black leggings, was flanked by airport police as she waited for her boyfriend to speak to the waiting media.
The 44-year-old told reporters he would consider whether to appeal the decision.
The former SAS soldier was seen in Bali the day before the ‘trial of the century’ verdict was pronounced.
Justice Anthony Besanko ruled that the allegations against Mr Roberts-Smith, including war crimes and murders, had been proven by a civil standard of probabilities.
Mr. Roberts-Smith has not been charged with criminal charges.
In the wake of the findings, many have called for Mr Roberts-Smith to be stripped of his medals, including the Victoria Cross, and for the record of him to be removed from the Australian War Memorial.
Mr Roberts-Smith said he was ‘proud’ of how he behaved while serving for Australia as a member of the public thanked him for his service (he is pictured at Perth Airport)
Ms. Matulin stepped back, flanked by airport police as Ben handled the waiting media
The 44-year-old ex-soldier said he would consider whether to appeal the decision (he is pictured at Perth airport on Wednesday)
Meanwhile, former SAS captain and federal MP Andrew Hastie, who testified against Mr Roberts-Smith at the defamation trial, has broken his silence on the outcome.
He said sadness and relief at the finding.
“Grief for the Afghan lives lost and the families injured, for the broken relationships and for the destroyed reputations, both individually and on an institutional level, especially with the SASR,” he told the ABC.
“But relief that the stark truth that many of the regiment have carried for years is now in the public domain and has been validated by a Federal Court judge.”
The former SAS soldier had been seen in Bali the day before the verdict was passed.
Roberts-Smith was seen loading their luggage into the back of a car outside the airport
Mr Hastie, who is now the opposition defense spokesman, praised the soldiers who made the claims.
“They have shown moral courage. They’ve been brave,” Mr Hastie told the ABC.
‘I honor their work, because it is they who have shown that the regiment has a moral impulse, which the regiment can correct itself. And it is they who have rejected the toxic culture and behavior.”
The Brereton Inquiry into Alleged War Crimes in Afghanistan, which released its report in 2021, found credible evidence that 39 Afghan civilians were killed by Australian special forces during the war.
It identified 25 current or former ADF personnel as alleged perpetrators, either as principals or accomplices.