SAS soldier had 'doubts' about evidence

·3-min read

An SAS soldier says Ben Roberts-Smith's lawyers filed his outline of evidence knowing it may have implicated the wrong Afghan soldier in what has become a key defamation trial issue.

The serving elite soldier codenamed Person 27 has become the second of Mr Roberts-Smith's friends to backtrack on an incident involving an Afghan partner force soldier in 2012.

Five of the war veteran's witnesses have lodged statements before the Federal Court saying Person 12 in July that year shot at a dog but the bullet ricocheted and injured an Australian soldier.

They say this then led to Person 12's removal from all deployments, and therefore could not have been present on a mission to Khaz Oruzgan alongside Mr Roberts-Smith.

But Person 27 is the second soldier called by Mr Roberts-Smith to admit in court this statement was wrong.

The news outlets allege on that mission the Victoria Cross recipient ordered Person 12 - through an interpreter - to either shoot a prisoner, or command his subordinate to carry out the execution.

Nicholas Owens SC on behalf of the newspapers on Tuesday asked Person 27 who the first person was to suggest to him that Person 12 shot the dog.

"Ben's lawyers," he answered.

"When the possibility was raised Person 12 shot the dog what did you say?"

"I don't know who any of these people are but I can find out who did it," he recalled saying.

He said the outline of evidence was born out of a verbal teleconference "and then it came back to me in writing, and I said 'I'm not sure about that'".

He said he wanted to confirm with Person 57 because he was not present at the time and had never met Person 12.

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing for defamation The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald over reports claiming he committed war crimes in Afghanistan including murder, and acts of bullying and domestic violence.

The 43-year-old denies all claims of wrongdoing, while the mastheads are defending them as true.

On Monday Person 27 said he subsequently spoke with the Australian soldier who was injured - Person 57.

"Who was the Waka who shot the dog that ricocheted and hit you in the ass," he recalled asking his friend.

"He said it's not the bloke who everyone thinks it is, it's the pudgy Waka," Person 27 said to him.

Waka is short for the Wakunish special forces the SAS partnered with.

"I was fairly naive thinking that outline of evidence was just an outline ... I thought it had to be signed," Person 27 said.

He said he didn't have a lawyer at the time and "didn't give it much thought after 2019".

Sometime later he spoke to Mr Roberts-Smith and told him to speak to Person 57 if he had any questions, he said.

He denied the assertion he was prepared to lie for Mr Roberts-Smith about the incident.

It comes after another witness called by the former SAS corporal dubbed Person 35, also backed up the "dog shooting" incident in evidence.

But after Mr Owens showed him classified documents showing this could not be the case, he said he must have "remembered incorrectly".

Person 35 denied concocting a story with Mr Roberts-Smith to place Person 12 far away from the scene of the crime.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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