First defamation trial witness called for Ben Roberts-Smith denies ‘blooding’ claims

A former elite soldier colleague of war veteran Ben Roberts-Smith has told a Sydney court he never used the term “blooding the rookie” or killed anyone taken prisoner in Afghanistan.

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times newspapers for defamation over 2018 stories that he claims contained false allegations of unlawful killings, bullying and domestic violence.

After 11 weeks of evidence from publisher Nine Entertainment’s witnesses, Mr Roberts-Smith’s lawyers called their first soldier witness.

Codenamed Person 5, the former Special Air Service Regiment (SAS) patrol commander recalled it was an “easy choice” to allocate Mr Roberts-Smith as his second-in-charge for a 2009 deployment to Afghanistan after seeing “how capable” he was .

The Federal Court has previously heard allegations of “blooding” junior soldiers, a term which refers to when someone records their first kill during a mission.

Person 5 said the first time he heard the term “blooding the rookie” was when he read it in newspapers.

“Have you ever used that term yourself?” Mr Roberts-Smith’s barrister Arthur Moses SC asked the witness.

“Never,” Person 5 replied.

A previous witness, Person 24, told the court prior to an April 2009 mission, Person 5 was “in a jovial manner dancing a bit of a jig” as he said “we are going to blood the rookie”, which he understood to be referring to a colleague codenamed Person 4.

Person 5 said the first time he heard somebody was alleging he used that term was in May 2018, days before he left the SAS.

“Have you ever killed a person who is under confinement (detained)?” Mr Moses asked.

“No,” Person 5 replied.

“Have you ever ordered a member of the Australian Defense Force under your command to kill a person under confinement?” Mr Moses asked.

“Never,” the witness replied.

The court has previously heard during the 2009 mission, at a Taliban compound dubbed “Whiskey 108”, two Afghan men were found hiding inside a secret tunnel.

Arthur Moses arrives at court
Arthur Moses asked the witness if he had ever killed a prisoner.(AAP: James Gourley)

According to Nine’s defense documents, one of the men, who then became PUCs (Person Under Control), was allegedly executed at Person 5’s direction to “blood” Person 4.

Another, who had a prosthetic leg, was allegedly shot dead by Mr Roberts-Smith outside the compound, previous witnesses have said.

Person 5 told the court one of his colleagues, Person 35, was sent into the tunnel but returned after “no more than a couple of minutes” and said “it’s clear”, at which point the compound was deemed secure.

The witness said he had a meeting with other patrol commanders, but then heard gunshots and when he ran out he saw Mr Roberts-Smith and Person 4 near a corner of the building.

He said Mr Roberts-Smith informed him they’d engaged “two squirters”, referring to people who attempt to leave the scene.

“I said ‘are they KIA (killed in action)’, he said ‘yes’,” Person 5 told the court.

Mr Roberts denies all wrongdoing and has told the court a man he killed that day was an armed insurgent coming around the corner from the compound.

The trial, before Justice Anthony Besanko, continues

Leave a Comment