Text messages ‘very damaging’ to Johnny Depp’s case against The Sun, court hears

By Sian Harrison and Alison Kershaw, PA

Texts sent by Johnny Depp during his relationship with Amber Heard are “very damaging” to his libel case against a British tabloid, the High Court has heard.

The Hollywood actor is suing the publishers of The Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton, over an article which alleged he had been abusive to his former wife.

At a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, Mr Justice Nicol heard 70,000 text messages were “accidentally” disclosed to the defendants by Mr Depp’s former legal team.

Adam Wolanski QC, representing News Group Newspapers, told the court the texts are “very damaging” to Mr Depp’s case.

Depp is suing the publishers of The Sun and its executive editor, Dan Wootton (Aaron Chown/PA)

The barrister said the messages included texts sent to actor Paul Bettany, in November 2013, in which Mr Depp wrote: “Let’s burn Amber”.

He also wrote: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f*** her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.”

Mr Wolanksi said that, in a further text to Mr Bettany in May 2014, he wrote: “I’m gonna properly stop the booze thing darling … Drank all night before I picked Amber up to fly to LA, this past Sunday.

“Ugly, mate… No food for days… Powders… Half a bottle of whiskey, a thousand red bull and vodkas, pills, two bottles of champers on plane and what do you get…???

“An angry, aggro Injun in a f*****’ blackout, screaming obscenities and insulting any f*** who got near… I’m done.

“I am admittedly too f***** in the head to spray my rage at the one I love… for little reason, as well I’m too old to be that guy. But, pills are fine!!!”

Mr Wolanski said the “significance” of the messages is that Mr Depp’s case is that he was not drunk on that flight, while Ms Heard claims he slapped and kicked her and threw his boot at her before passing out in the toilet.

The barrister added: “His version of events is that he was quietly sketching during the flight.”

Mr Wolanski said there was another text message from Mr Depp to Ms Heard in March 2013, following an incident in which she claims he assaulted her during a row over a painting, in which he referred to the evening in question as a “disco bloodbath” and “horrendous moment”.

The barrister also referred to texts sent by Mr Depp’s nurse during a 2014 “detox trip” to the Bahamas, in which she revealed that he was “manic… full on – flipping out” and said he was “angry with everyone but mostly himself”.

Johnny Depp (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

David Sherborne, representing Mr Depp, said there is “no single smoking gun” in any of the evidence disclosed so far which supports Ms Heard’s claims Mr Depp was violent.

“Nowhere, I repeat, nowhere, is there a single smoking gun, text or email, no document – unlike Ms Heard’s own taped confession we looked at before – there is no document where Mr Depp says ‘I hit Ms Heard’ let alone ‘I hit her on numerous occasions’.”

Mr Sherborne said there is no document is because Mr Depp “simply never did it so they (the defence) are not going to find it.”

He said the defendants had the opportunity to look at 70,000 messages and had only found these few.

Mr Sherborne added: “The idea that somehow these texts contradict the account (given by Mr Depp) and are therefore so critical to the defendants’ case just simply isn’t made out.”

The barrister said Mr Depp’s witness statement claims it was “physically impossible” for him to do the things Ms Heard accused him of on that flight, and that two other witnesses supported his account.

Mr Depp, wearing a suit and blue-tinted glasses, sat in court behind his lawyers throughout the hearing.

The 55-year-old denies the allegations of domestic abuse and has accused Ms Heard of being the “aggressor” in their relationship, which ended in May 2016.

The court was told he stopped using law firm Brown Rudnick on February 11 and is now represented by Schillings.

Amber Heard and Johnny Depp (Ian West/Yui Mok/PA)

The star’s libel claim arises out of publication of an article in The Sun in April 2018 under the headline “Gone Potty How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife-beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”

Mr Sherborne told the court the words “wife-beater” were later removed from the article online.

The court previously heard Mr Depp’s case is that the article bears the meaning that he was “guilty, on overwhelming evidence, of serious domestic violence against his then wife, causing significant injury and leading to her fearing for her life, for which the claimant was constrained to pay no less than £5 million to compensate her, and which resulted in him being subjected to a continuing court restraining order; and for that reason is not fit to work in the film industry”.

A trial of the libel claim is due to start on March 23 and last for 10 days, during which a number of witnesses will give evidence – including many over video link from California.

Mr Depp has brought separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US, which Mr Sherborne said are “ongoing”.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard met on the set of 2011 comedy The Rum Diary and married in Los Angeles in February 2015.

In May 2016 Ms Heard obtained a restraining order against Depp after accusing him of abuse, which he denied.

The couple settled their divorce out of court in 2017, with Ms Heard donating her seven million US dollar (£5.5 million) settlement to charity.