Johnny Depp’s security guard today revealed a photograph of the Hollywood actor with a black eye after his then-wife Amber Heard allegedly punched him, to support his sensational libel claim against a newspaper.
Depp, 57, is suing The Sun publisher News Group Newspapers (NGN) and its executive editor at the High Court over an April 2018 article which alleged he was violent towards Heard, 34, during their tumultuous relationship.
Security guard Sean Bett, who has worked for Depp and his family for nine years, claimed in his witness statement released today that the injury was caused by Heard following her 30th birthday party in Los Angeles in April 2016.
But NGN’s barrister Sasha Wass QC told the court that the photograph was actually taken in March 2015 in the same city on a date when Heard had already admitted she attacked Depp in defence of her sister Whitney.
Heard has previously claimed she and Depp were having an argument when he approached Whitney on a landing between two staircases in their home in Los Angeles – and she feared he might push her, so hit him in the face.
It is another bombshell development in the extraordinary case in London, with the court also told today:
- Depp’s bodyguard insisted he was not lying over claims that he saw Depp being regularly attacked by Heard;
- The security guard, Sean Bett, said he regularly saw Heard throw ‘bottles, glass and other objects’ at Depp;
- The actor’s former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder will now not appear to support his libel claim.
Today in court, Mr Bett also insisted that he was not lying over claims that he saw Depp being regularly attacked by Heard but never hit back. When accused of lying by Ms Wass, he said: ‘You can call me a liar a hundred times but I’m not lying, I’m telling the truth.’
Johnny Depp’s security guard Sean Bett today revealed a photograph of the actor with a black eye after his then-wife Amber Heard allegedly punched him. He initially said it was taken on April 2016, but the court heard it was actually March 2015
Johnny Depp (left) and Amber Heard (right) arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London today for the libel trial to continue
Security guard Sean Bett (pictured today), who has worked for Depp and his family for nine years, gave evidence at the court
Mr Bett was shown a photograph of Depp with a facial injury. He initially stated in his statement that this was from an incident in April 2016, when he claimed Heard attacked the Hollywood star after he arrived late for her birthday.
It was revealed by Ms Wass that the photograph was in fact from an incident in March 2015 when Heard has admitted to attacking Depp in an attempt to protect her sister Whitney.
Ms Wass added: ‘This is a picture from March 2015 in which she (Heard) admits she punched Mr Depp in defence of her sister.’
Turning to Mr Bett, she said: ‘This is the only photo of Mr Depp with a visible injury. You are suggesting that this injury is in relation to an incident that took place more than a year later.’
After initially claiming that he took the photograph, Mr Bett admitted that it was actually sent to him by Adam Waldman, Depp’s US lawyer.
He said that he became confused because it was similar to one, he took on his own phone following the fight of April 2016 and without a date or time of when it was taken.
Mr Bett also insisted that he did not see Heard with any injuries following a row between Depp and Heard a month later in the Los Angeles penthouse they shared, when it is alleged, he left her with a black eye.
In a statement submitted to court, Mr Bett insisted that he had never seen Depp being ‘violent to anyone including Ms Heard.’
Depp is assisted into the High Court by his security team this morning for his libel claim against The Sun to continue
Amber Heard (centre) arrives at the High Court today with her girlfriend Bianca Butti (left) and sister Whitney Heard (right)
He claimed that he regularly saw the Aquaman actress throw ‘bottles, glass and other objects’ at Depp while also being verbally abusive to him.
In response, maintained Mr Bett, Depp always remained passive and ‘always tried to remove himself from the situation.’
He also described Heard as ‘polite’ when asked by Ms Wass if he had found her to be ‘perfectly polite’ when he was on his own with her without Depp. He was asked about the ‘guard shack’ at Depp’s home.
He told the court: ‘The guard shack was an area where the security personnel stayed at his Hollywood address. It had several cameras in there, CCTV cameras, where you could monitor the streets and property.’
Ms Wass put it to Mr Bett: ‘You said in your statement that Ms Heard never told you that Mr Depp would hit her.’ He replied: ‘Correct.’
Ms Wass asked if it came as a ‘surprise’ to him that she did not confide in him in the circumstances, saying he was Depp’s employee. ‘There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for Ms Heard to confide in you,’ Ms Wass said.
Last week, Ms Wass claimed in court earlier on in the case that the couple had an argument in March 2015 because Heard found out he was having an affair with Rochelle Hathaway, with Depp responding that Heard ‘was quite jealous of Rochelle and several other people, so I don’t know that she found out I was having an affair’.
Meanwhile, it was revealed today Depp’s former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder will now not appear at the High Court to support his libel claim.
A woman films Johnny Depp arriving at the High Court in London this morning as legal proceedings in the capital continue
Depp waves to the photographers outside the High Court this morning (left), while his ex-wife Heard also arrives (right)
Actress Paradis, who was in a relationship with Depp for more than 14 years and had two children with him, had been expected to give evidence in support of the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s case over a videolink today.
But the court was told today that there was no need for her – or another ex-partner, actress Ryder – to give evidence because Depp’s claim that he has never hit a woman was only tested by the defence regarding Heard.
At an earlier preliminary hearing in the case, part of 47-year-old Paradis’s witness statement said: ‘I have known Johnny for more than 25 years. We’ve been partners for 14 years and we raised our two children together.
‘Through all these years I’ve known Johnny to be a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father.’ She added: ‘He was never violent or abusive to me.’
This morning, Depp’s barrister David Sherborne said the trial timetable had been revised, adding: ‘There is no need to reschedule those witnesses (Ryder and Paradis), much as it would have been a pleasure to have them here.’
Witnesses will instead today include Starling Jenkins and Alejandro Romero, who worked at the Eastern Columbia Buildings in LA where Heard and Depp lived.
Yesterday, Heard’s former personal assistant accused the actress of ‘twisting’ her own account of a machete-point rape for ‘her own use’, in explosive evidence on the seventh day of Depp’s libel claim.
Appearing by videolink from Los Angeles yesterday, Kate James claimed Heard, 34, had ‘stolen’ her story of being ‘violently raped’ in Brazil almost three decades ago.
Johnny Depp and his former partner Vanessa Paradis in London on October 17, 2004. Paradis will now no longer appear at the court today via videolink in support of Depp’s libel claim against a newspaper over an article that labelled him a ‘wife beater’
Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in Los Angeles in September 1990. Ryder had been due to give evidence via videolink
Johnny Depp being taken to hospital with a severed finger, following the incident in Australia in March 2015
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. They are pictured at the film’s premiere in London in November 2011
In her witness statement, Ms James said she discovered the Aquaman actress had ‘stolen my sexual violence conversation with her and twisted it into her own story to benefit herself’.
She added: ‘This of course caused me extreme distress and outrage that she would dare to attempt to use the most harrowing experience of my life as her own narrative.’ Ms James said she was giving evidence because she took ‘offence’ at Heard’s actions.
NGN’s barrister Sasha Wass QC suggested Ms James had been ‘influenced’ by Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas actor Depp and his associates and ‘encouraged’ to give ‘vicious evidence’ against Heard.
Ms James replied: ‘I’m here for my own reasons … I’m a sexual violence survivor and that’s very, very serious to take that stance if you are not one and I am one. That’s the reason I’m here, because I take offence.’
Ms James, who worked for Heard between 2012 and 2015, said her former employer would send a ‘barrage of drunk text messages between the hours of two and four in the morning … on an almost daily basis’, describing the messages as ‘abusive’.
She accused Heard of deleting all the ‘abusive’ texts after the actress terminated her employment, adding: ‘She saved the ones that weren’t.’
In her statement, Ms James said Heard felt she was ‘above the law’, and claimed she ‘did not care about throwing anyone under the bus, if it meant saving her own skin’.
Heard asked her in September 2014 to send a letter the actress had drafted to Homeland Security officials in the US about a woman named Savannah McMillan, who had been hired to work as a set assistant, Ms James claimed.
Amber Heard photographed Johnny Depp with ice cream spilled on his legs during a private flight from Boston to Los Angeles in May 2014 before showing it to him the next day and saying: ‘Look at what you’ve become’, the court heard earlier this week
A man holding a placard in support of Depp stands outside the High Court in London this morning ahead of the latest hearing
According to Ms James, Heard said in the letter: ‘Savannah McMillan is a personal friend and, to my knowledge, has never worked unlawfully or otherwise in the United States. Or for me.’
Ms James said in her statement that Heard ‘knew this to be untrue’ and ‘Amber was therefore wilfully lying to the US immigration department’.
She also claimed Heard ‘deliberately smuggled’ two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, into Australia illegally in April 2015.
The High Court in London earlier heard evidence from Kevin Murphy, Depp’s former estate manager, who claimed Heard asked him to contact Ms James and ask her to ‘lie under oath’ to an Australian court.
Mr Murphy said the actress also ‘demanded’ he make a false statement about the animals being ‘smuggled’ into the country, and told him: ‘I wouldn’t want you to have a problem with your job.’
In October 2015, Heard faced criminal proceedings in Australia for taking the couple’s two dogs into the country illegally.
She and Depp later recorded a now infamous video, which was played to the court, apologising for doing so.
The carnage in a home in Australia after Depp and Heard allegedly had a fight in 2015, which was released yesterday as part of Ben King’s evidence. The picture shows an undamaged phone handset, with Mr King insisting ‘ I did not see any phones which had been broken’, despite Heard’s claims that he smashed it against a wall and cut off his fingertip while attacking her
Depp is alleged to have trashed a penthouse in Los Angeles, California, which Heard used as a colossal closet
Photographs were issued by Heard’s legal team of her with injuries to her face around the time of the alleged attack on December 15, 2015, showing bruising across the bridge of her nose and under her eyes after Depp allegedly headbutted her
Mr Murphy said he lied under oath ‘because Amber wielded a lot of power and would have made my life miserable’.
Johnny Depp v The Sun: Key issues in libel trial
Hollywood star Johnny Depp’s libel claim against The Sun enters its second week on Monday. These are the key issues the trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, has to determine.
– Whether the April 2018 article by the tabloid’s executive editor Dan Wootton was defamatory of Depp. Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless its publication causes ‘serious harm to the reputation of the claimant’.
– The Sun’s publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), is defending the claim and relying on a defence of truth. It is for the publisher to prove that the allegations made in the article are ‘substantially true’.
– The meaning of the article, which is defined as what it would mean to the ‘reasonable reader’, will have to be determined by the judge. But NGN’s lawyers say the differences between the rival meanings contended by each side are ‘not significant’ and the outcome of the case will therefore not turn on meaning.
– Depp’s case is that the article bore the meaning that he was ‘guilty, on overwhelming evidence, of serious domestic violence against his then wife, causing significant injury and leading to her fearing for her life, for which he was constrained to pay no less than £5 million to compensate her, and which resulted in him being subjected to a continuing court restraining order; and for that reason is not fit to work in the film industry’. He strenuously denies the allegations and claims he ‘has never hit or committed any acts of physical violence against Ms Heard’.
– The meaning which NGN will seek to prove is true is that the Claimant beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading her to fearing for her life. They rely on 14 separate allegations of violence and allege more generally that Depp was ‘controlling and verbally and physically abusive’ towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and or drugs, throughout their relationship. NGN’s lawyers say an important issue for the judge to decide will be what substances Depp was using during the relationship. They contend that he frequently lost control of himself, partly because of his heavy drug and alcohol use, and also that his memory has been impaired by his heavy use of drugs.
– If Depp wins his case, the judge will have to decide what level of compensation he should receive for the harm to his reputation and for the ‘distress, hurt and humiliation caused’. There is an upper limit on general damages for libel of £300,000 to £325,000. However, if he succeeds, Depp may also be entitled to aggravated damages. The actor is also asking for a final injunction against NGN, who his legal team say ‘have retained the article on their website and maintained their allegation to the bitter end’.
He also gave evidence about the ‘defecation incident’, when faeces were found in the couple’s bed after Heard’s 30th birthday party in April 2016.
Ms Wass read a text from Heard to Mr Murphy in October 2014, when the actress said: ‘I’m worried she’s got brain damage. She can’t seem to predict or control when she uses the bathroom.
‘Last night she s**t ON Johnny while he was sleeping, like all over him. Not exaggerating.’
Mr Murphy said in his witness statement that, when he spoke to Depp in April 2016 about the ‘defecation incident’, the actor was ‘sullen and disgusted’.
Ms Wass read two text messages sent by Depp shortly after the incident, saying that in one, he wrote ‘my wife left a whopper poop on my bed’ and ‘then he says ‘Amber Turd”.
She said: ‘In fact, it appears from those texts that Depp found the subject quite amusing,’ to which Mr Murphy said he thought the actor was being ‘sarcastic’.
Mr Murphy was asked if Heard had told him the faeces in the bed was a ‘harmless prank’, and said: ‘She certainly did.’
Yesterday morning, Depp’s previous estate manager, Ben King, gave evidence that Depp and Heard ‘argued like schoolchildren’, with explosive rows starting from ‘banal beginnings’.
He claimed Heard was the ‘antagoniser’ in the relationship, often ‘goading’ and attempting to provoke the actor.
Mr King, who worked for the Hollywood star for three separate periods between 2014 and 2016, said he never saw Depp ‘be violent or unkind towards Heard, or indeed towards anyone else’.
In his first witness statement, Mr King said that in March 2015 he was summoned to the house the couple were renting in Australia, where he found a ‘significant amount of damage’ and discovered the actor’s severed fingertip on the floor of the bar area while cleaning up broken glass and debris.
Depp has been accused of subjecting Heard to a ‘three-day hostage situation’ and trashing the house during the Australia trip, which he denies.
His finger was severed during the stay, which he says was caused by Ms Heard throwing a vodka bottle at him, which she denies.
Yesterday, the court did not have time to hear from actress Ryder, who was engaged to Mr Depp in the 1990s, or Katherine Kendall, an actress and #MeToo advocate who claims she was ‘misquoted’ in The Sun’s article.
Depp is suing NGN and its executive editor Dan Wootton over the publication of an article headlined: ‘Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?’.
His lawyers say the article bore the meaning there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ Depp assaulted Heard on a number of occasions and left her ‘in fear for her life’.
Heard claims that, during an incident in Australia, she was subjected to a ‘three-day hostage situation’ during which Depp drank to excess and took pills.
NGN is defending the article as true, and says Depp was ‘controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs’.