Ben Roberts-Smith did not punch the woman he had an affair with, court told

Roberts-Smith rejects the allegation and has told the court he tended to the bump on the woman’s head with ice.

A former army officer at the dinner, who did not know Roberts-Smith personally, gave evidence that he witnessed Person 17 fall down the stairs and sustain a “very large haematoma on the left side of her forehead above her eye”.

Richardson said Roberts-Smith would have had to punch Person 17 either “precisely where she had this egg-shaped lump from the fall, or very close to it”.

“It would, of course, be possible for a man to wait until their partner by pure chance sustained an injury from a random fall and then to commit an assault,” he said. “It is possible, but I submit … that [the likelihood of] such a course of events is something much less than probable.”

Richardson said Person 17 had told both her doctor and Roberts-Smith’s estranged wife in the days after the alleged assault that the injury was caused by falling down the stairs. He said those statements were truthful.

Lyndelle Barnett, acting for the newspapers, submitted to the court last week that the media outlets’ report in August 2018 did not assert that Roberts-Smith was guilty of an act of domestic violence but reported an allegation had been made.

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“The ordinary reasonable reader could not reasonably conclude that Mr Roberts-Smith had actually engaged in the act of domestic violence,” she said.

“The ordinary reasonable reader may suspect he did, possibly even strongly suspect, but they would not reasonably conclude that he must have done it and he is guilty of it.”

In the event the court concludes the newspapers did assert that Roberts-Smith assaulted Person 17, the media outlets are seeking to rely on a truth defence.

The court has heard Roberts-Smith hired a private investigator, John McLeod, to follow Person 17 to a Brisbane abortion clinic earlier in 2018. Roberts-Smith said he wanted to check whether she was telling the truth about a pregnancy because he suspected she was lying. Person 17 ultimately told the court she did not have an abortion but had a miscarriage.

Richardson submitted to the court that Person 17 pretended she was going to have a termination, “and she would have plainly kept up that pretence unless she had been caught out”.

The trial continues.

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