By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) – Actress Amber Heard will be questioned about her allegations that she suffered domestic abuse at the hands of ex-husband Johnny Depp when she begins giving evidence on Monday as part of the Hollywood star’s libel case against a British tabloid.
The High Court in London has heard two weeks of testimony, including five days of evidence from Depp himself, which has laid bare the couple’s volatile relationship and some shocking claims from both parties.
Depp, one of the world’s highest-paid movie stars, is suing News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun newspaper, over an article which labelled him a “wife beater” and questioned his casting in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” franchise.
The paper says the article’s claims are true and the court has been told that Heard, 34, accuses her ex-husband of attacking her on at least 14 occasions between 2013 and 2016 when he became enraged after drinking or taking drugs to excess.
Depp, 57, denies ever being violent, saying she is lying and that she had regularly assaulted him. While the case strictly concerns whether the paper defamed him, it has become, in effect, a trial to decide which of them is telling the truth.
During his five days giving evidence, the court has heard extensive details about Depp’s issues with alcohol and drugs and his “binges” with other celebrities.
Citing emails and text messages between Depp, Heard, his staff and friends, the Sun’s lawyer Sasha Wass has argued that the actor turned into an alter ego – “the monster” – when intoxicated or under the influence of cocaine.
Rages brought on by jealousy or his anger at Heard’s attempts to curb his excesses had led to violence: He was accused of kicking, slapping, and punching his ex-wife, pulling out clumps of her hair, throwing a phone at her and on one occasion, headbutting her.
The court has been shown pictures of Heard with two black eyes and another facial injury which she says he caused.
Depp says the accusations are a hoax, with some allegations collated for years as part of an insurance policy by Heard. So far, witnesses called by his legal team have concurred with his version of events.
His former long-term partner Vanessa Paradis, the mother of his two children, and actress Winona Ryder, to whom he was engaged in the 1990s, said he was never violent and do not believe the allegations.
His friends, security staff and assistants say Heard was abusive and violent towards him, while others, including a police officer, have cast doubt on her claims, saying they never saw her with the visible injuries she alleges Depp caused.
Depp also told the court that Heard had severed the tip of his finger when she threw a large vodka bottle at him during one explosive row, and that either she or one of her friends had defecated in their shared bed as a prank.
He also accuses her of having affairs with co-stars and with Tesla chief Elon Musk.
Heard is due to give her side in evidence over three days, and her sister Whitney may also be called later in the week as one of the witnesses who back her account of events.