Johnny Depp libel case: Ex-aide tells court he found a piece of actor's flesh after argument

15 July 2020, 10:24 | Updated: 15 July 2020, 15:44

Johnny Depp's former estate manager has told the High Court how he found a piece of the actor's finger following a now infamous argument with Amber Heard in Australia.

Ben King, who worked for the Pirates Of The Caribbean star in Australia, London and Canada over three separate periods between 2014 and 2016, was the first witness to be called in the libel trial against The Sun on Wednesday.

He told the court that Heard was the "antagoniser" in her relationship with Depp, often "goading" and attempting to provoke the actor, and that the pair would argue "like schoolchildren".

Here are some of the key moments from day seven in court:

  • Former staff member Mr King told the court how he found the piece of Depp's finger and retrieved it
  • In one of his written statements, Mr King said he never saw the actor "be violent or unkind towards Ms Heard, or indeed towards anyone else"
  • Before another trip to Australia, Heard was "repeatedly" told it would be illegal for her to take her two dogs with her, it was claimed - the actress faced criminal proceedings in 2015 for taking Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo into the country illegally
  • The court heard more about faeces allegedly found in Depp's bed in 2016, with Kevin Murphy, a house manager for the actor, claiming Heard told him it was "a harmless prank"

An argument in Australia in March 2015, which has been discussed several times during the hearing so far and happened shortly after the pair got married, is one of 14 alleged incidents of violence against Depp - Heard has described it as a "three-day hostage situation".

The 57-year-old actor's finger was seriously wounded during the incident - he claims Heard, 34, threw a bottle at him.

On Wednesday, Sasha Wass QC, representing The Sun's publishers News Group Newspapers (NGN), asked Mr King about the clean-up operation in the aftermath of the argument.

The barrister asked if Mr King had the task of trying to find the missing tip of the actor's finger, to which he replied: "It was mentioned that it may be somewhere and when I was clearing up I found it."

Mr King told the court he found the piece of flesh near a bar area in the rented house the couple were staying in while Depp was filming a Pirates Of The Caribbean film.

Ms Wass said Mr King was "not qualified... to say where the injury took place or how the injury took place, you are not a pathologist".

He replied: "I'm not a pathologist... I know what I saw when I arrived at the house."

Mr King was also asked by Ms Wass if there was any "urine on the floor" in the house, to which he said there was not.

David Sherborne, representing Depp, told the court that in a previous statement given by Heard, she said Depp "took out his penis" before urinating in front of and inside the house.

Her statement went on: "He said he was trying to write my name on the carpet as he walked through the house."

Still discussing the house in Australia, Ms Wass told the court "there was a lot of paint" and graffiti on the walls, which she said read: "Billy Bob Thornton, Amber Easy."

Thornton, a former co-star of Heard's, has been brought up previously in the proceedings.

Depp has admitted writing on a mirror and walls in the house in blood from his wounded finger, as well as paint, saying: "There was an incident once where Amber lied to me about Billy Bob Thornton, so I wrote his name."

Returning to Los Angeles from Australia with Heard, Mr King noticed "some cuts on one of her arms", the court heard.

"They were enough for me to say, 'maybe you should put your sleeve down'," he said.

:: Listen to the Backstage podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker

During his time in the witness box, Ms Wass put it to Mr King that when he first worked for Depp, he was told the star was "teetotal, having been a drinker", which he said was correct.

When Mr King arrived at a house Depp and Heard were staying in in London, "there was a relatively large number of cases of wine that had been brought to the house and you found that strange," Ms Wass said.

"You reached the conclusion that Ms Heard drank two bottles of wine a night," the barrister said.

Mr King replied: "Not every night... it was a regular occurrence, but not every night."

Mr King said he did not know if Depp was clean from drugs at that time. "It was not any of my business," he told the court.

Kevin Murphy, who worked for Depp for almost eight years, followed Mr King giving evidence. He was asked about a separate trip to Australia in 2015, when the couple famously took their two dogs into the country.

He said Heard was "repeatedly" told beforehand that it would be illegal for her to take the pets, Yorkshire terriers Pistol and Boo, with her, due to permit and quarantine issues.

Mr Murphy also alleged that the actress "demanded" he make a false statement about the animals being "smuggled" into the country, and that she asked him to contact her former assistant, Kate James, and ask her to "lie under oath" to an Australian court.

Heard and Depp recorded a now infamous video in 2016 apologising for taking the dogs on the trip.

In his written witness statement for the libel case, Mr Murphy claimed he felt threatened by Heard over the incident.

"Ms Heard was aware that [taking the dogs to Australia] was illegal, because I had informed her repeatedly by email, telephone and in person," he said.

Mr Murphy alleged he had told Heard he was "uncomfortable" with giving a false statement to the Australian court and that "he would not ask Ms James to do so".

In his written statement, Mr Murphy also said that shortly after this, Heard "demanded verbally that I myself make a false witness statement regarding the dogs' illegal entrance into Australia".

He said: "I expressed that I was extremely uncomfortable with doing so, to which Ms Heard responded with words to the effect of: 'Well I want your help on this... I wouldn't want you to have a problem with your job'.

"Ms Heard's threatening language made me feel anxious and uneasy."

He said he was "shocked" when he later discovered Heard had travelled with the dogs despite his warnings of "severe legal ramifications".

Mr Murphy said he co-operated with Heard's request to provide her with a statement supporting her account to the Australian authorities, saying he felt under "extreme pressure to co-operate, despite knowing this would involve being untruthful".

The trial continues.