LONDON — Johnny Depp’s security chief alleged that Amber Heard physically abused Depp during the couple’s tempestuous marriage, giving testimony to support Depp’s libel suit against a British tabloid that accused him of assaulting his former spouse.
Depp is suing News Group Newspapers, publisher of The Sun, and the paper’s executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an April 2018 article that called him a "wife-beater." He strongly denies abusing Heard.
In a written witness statement released as he appeared in court Thursday, security officer Sean Bett said that "throughout the course of Mr. Depp and Ms. Heard’s relationship, Ms. Heard was verbally and physically abusive towards Mr. Depp."
"On many occasions, I witnessed her shout at Mr. Depp. I was also told by Mr. Depp on multiple occasions that Ms. Heard had physically abused him," he said.
Bett, a former Los Angeles sheriff's deputy who has worked for Depp for a decade, said he regularly had to remove the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star from bad situations when Heard was in an "abusive mood."
"Ms. Heard often behaved in this way when she had been drinking. I learnt quickly to recognize the signs, so that we were able to leave the situation before it escalated further," he said.
Depp, 57, and Heard, 34, met on the set of the 2011 comedy "The Rum Diary" and married in Los Angeles in February 2015. Heard filed for divorce the following year, and the divorce was finalized in 2017.
The Sun’s defence relies on 14 allegations made by Heard of violence by Depp between 2013 and 2016, in settings including his private island in the Bahamas, a rented house in Australia and a private jet. He denies them all and claims Heard was the aggressor during their volatile relationship, which he has likened to "a crime scene waiting to happen."
In a week and half of testimony, judge Andrew Nicol has heard from Depp — who accused Depp of compiling a dossier of fake claims against him — as well as several employees of Depp and Heard who have backed his version of events.
Heard is due to give her side of the story in evidence later in the trial, which is scheduled to last three weeks.
Bett was cross-examined Thursday by The Sun's lawyer, Sasha Wass, who questioned his claim that he had never seen Heard with bruises of marks on her face or body but had several times seen Depp with bruises inflicted by his wife.
Wass suggested Bett was lying to protect Depp, his employer.
"Ma’am you can call me a liar a hundred times. I’m not a liar. I’m telling the truth," Bett said.
Depp’s former romantic partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder had been scheduled to give evidence, but Depp's lawyer said Thursday that they would no longer be appearing.
David Sherborne, said Thursday that he no longer needed to call them, "much as it would have been a pleasure to have them here," because The Sun does not contest Depp’s claim that he never hit them.
Depp and French singer Paradis had two children during a 14-year relationship that ended in 2012. American actress Ryder dated Depp between 1990 and 1993.
In a written witness statement disclosed in part at a pretrial hearing, Ryder said Depp "was never, never violent towards me. He was never, never abusive at all towards me."
Paradis said in a witness statement that she had always known Depp to be "a kind, attentive, generous, and non-violent person and father."