Ben Roberts-Smith told his ex-wife she would “lose the children” if she didn’t lie about the pair being separated during his extramarital affair, a Sydney court has heard.
The 42-year-old is under cross-examination in his defamation trial against The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Canberra Times.
He told the Federal Court he separated from his former wife, Emma Roberts, about the end of September 2017 before beginning an affair with another woman soon after.
Mr Roberts-Smith attended multiple marriage counselling sessions with Ms Roberts during January the next year, but none of the counsellor’s notes suggested they disclosed the separation.
Nicholas Owens SC, the barrister for the publisher of two of the newspapers, put it to Mr Roberts-Smith he was not separated.
“We’d agreed we weren’t going to tell him because we didn’t want it written down,” the veteran replied.
“I had a public profile and we didn’t want it to come out. We’d been keeping up appearances for many years, really.”
The court heard that Ms Roberts was “furious” about having to pose for a newspaper photograph in August 2018.
“Isn’t it right that you told your wife she would lose the children if she did not adhere to the story that you had been separated at the time of the affair?” Mr Owens asked.
“That is completely false,” Mr Roberts-Smith said.
Mr Owens accused Mr Roberts-Smith of pressuring Ms Roberts to adhere to the “lie” when she gave evidence in the defamation trial, which he also denied.
The court heard Mr Roberts-Smith and the woman with whom he had an affair, referred to by the pseudonym Person 17, discussed leaving their respective partners and starting a life together.
Mr Owens said the veteran bought her a pink Argyle diamond ring while she was in London in early 2018.
“You ended up instead of giving it to her, giving it to your wife,” Mr Owens said.
“Ah, no,” Mr Roberts-Smith said.
The court heard when Mr Roberts-Smith attempted to end the affair, Person 17 told Mr Roberts-Smith she was pregnant, leaving him “sceptical”.
Mr Owens accused Mr Roberts-Smith of demanding the woman prove it by sending him a video of her taking a pregnancy test, before they agreed the pregnancy should be terminated.
The court has previously heard Mr Roberts-Smith engaged a private detective to follow her to an abortion appointment in Brisbane.
Mr Owens put it to him that that constituted “abusive and controlling behaviour”.
“I had a clear concern that I was being manipulated,” Mr Roberts-Smith said.
“I just wanted to know what the truth was because I couldn’t get it from Person 17.”
The newspaper stories reported allegations Mr Roberts-Smith had punched Person 17 in the face after an event at Parliament House in 2018, which he denied.
“There’s never been an assault. She fell down the stairs and has concocted a story,” he said.