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Johnny Depp denies 'wife-beater' claim in London libel trial

Phil Hazlewood and Sylvain Peuchmaurd

Agence France-Presse

London  /  Wed, July 8, 2020  /  11:07 am
Johnny Depp denies 'wife-beater' claim in London libel trial

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp, wearing a face mask or covering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, arrives on the first day of his libel trial against News Group Newspapers (NGN), at the High Court in London, on July 7, 2020. (AFP/Daniel Leal-Olivas)

 

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a "wife-beater".

The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.

Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and face mask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.

The high-profile case has laid bare the couple's turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.

But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: "For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life."

He said it was a "strong and central part" of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.

"I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen," he added.

"She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest," he went on. 

"I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.

The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film "The Rum Diary" and married in 2015.

Final straw 

Amber Heard, (C), American actress and former wife of Hollywood actor Johnny Depp arrives on the first day of libel trial brought by Hollywood actor Johnny Depp against News Group Newspapers (NGN), at the High Court in London, on July 7, 2020. Amber Heard, (C), American actress and former wife of Hollywood actor Johnny Depp arrives on the first day of libel trial brought by Hollywood actor Johnny Depp against News Group Newspapers (NGN), at the High Court in London, on July 7, 2020. (AFP/Tolga Akmen)

News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.

It argues Depp was "controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs" -- and has evidence to prove it.

But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their "unhappy" time together.

In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.

Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations "sick... and completely untrue".

He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an "obsessive need" to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.

He said the final straw for him was in May 2016, when he discovered she or one of her friends defecated in their bed "as a prank", and immediately filed for divorce.

Depp's lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple's relationship was at times "physical", it was at Heard's instigation.

Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard's violence, calling her allegations "complete lies".

"He is not a wife-beater and never has been," he said.

Heard was a "complex individual", whose behavior was "extremely unpredictable", with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.

She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a "wide range" of prescribed medication and other drugs.

Depp loved her but found her behavior "often bewildering" and "very difficult" to understand or deal with, he added.

Jekyll and Hyde 

Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to "numb the pain" of a difficult childhood.

But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a "nasty side", that saw him turn into a "monster" who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.

"It wasn't Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde," he insisted.

The Sun story -- "Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?" -- came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.

Depp said he had suffered "significant reputational damage" as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.

The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.

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