Court told Ben Roberts-Smith ‘punched, threatened’ former mistress

Ben Roberts-Smith’s former mistress has tearfully told a court how the war hero had her followed, made veiled threats, punched her in the face, and took naked photos of her while she was asleep.

Codenamed Person 17, the woman was in a relationship with the Victoria Cross recipient in 2017 and 2018 while they were both married to other people.

The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times reported Mr Robert-Smith assaulted her after a night out at a function in Canberra.

Mr Roberts-Smith, 43, denies the allegation, and is suing the papers over the report and others claiming he committed war crimes and murders in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2012.

While giving evidence on Tuesday, Person 17 cried as she told the Federal Court hearing about the night in question in March 2018.

She was very drunk by the time they left the function at Parliament House, she said, and as she was leaving, she fell down the stairs and hit her head.

She wanted to go to hospital, but Mr Roberts-Smith said they should return to the hotel where he would look after her.

Instead, when the pair entered the hotel room, she says he took her by the shoulders and got “up in her face”.

“Ben got really angry with me,” she said.

“He was shaking me by the shoulders saying ‘f—… what the f— have you done?’.

The woman told the court she began apologising as they walked further into the room.

“I had his hands and I was saying, ‘Please let’s just go to bed and forget about it’… and then he punched me.

“I ended up lying on the bed … still, because I didn’t know what he was going to do next.”

The next morning she woke up with a black eye, and Mr Roberts-Smith asked her if she remembered what had happened the night before.

“I said ‘No’, and he said, ‘Good girl, you hurt yourself when you fell over’,” she said.

“I was afraid of what he would do if it didn’t say that.”

The woman told the court the pair’s passionate and intense affair had begun after they met at another charity function in October 2017.

“It was really fast moving and sort of all consuming, like we couldn’t get enough of each other.”

She said she soon told Mr Roberts-Smith she was falling in love with him, something she knew was “crazy” as they hadn’t known each other very long.

“He said, ‘You don’t want to fall in love with me. I’m not the greatest guy’.

“I just thought he was being humble … because to me he seemed perfect.”

The pair had confessed their love for each other and spoke about leaving their respective partners and getting married.

But within five months Person 17 was so concerned about Mr Roberts-Smith’s behaviour that she consulted a policewoman friend about her next steps.

She said he had pressured her to get an abortion, organised for her to be followed to the clinic, deleted messages from her phone, made veiled threats against her and her family, and had naked photos of her taken while she was asleep.

“I wasn’t sure how I could leave the relationship safely.”

When she decided to do so, Person 17 asked to see Mr Roberts-Smith one last time.

At that meeting, he warned the woman – who was still sporting a bruised eye – not to cross him.

“He said to me, ‘As long as we’re on the same page you’ve got nothing to worry about, but if you turn on me I’ll burn your house down’,” she said.

“It might not be you that gets hurt. It might be people that you love and care about.”

The next day, she went to Mr Roberts-Smith’s home and told his wife about the affair.

Person 17 will resume giving evidence on Wednesday.


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