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Roberts-Smith ‘bullet’ threat to witness

Ben Roberts-Smith
A former SAS patrol commander has testified a soldier reported being bullied by Ben Roberts-Smith. Photo: AAP
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Ben Roberts-Smith allegedly threatened a fellow SAS soldier if his performance did not improve “you’re going to get a bullet in the back of the head,” he has testified in court.

The sergeant codenamed Person One said the decorated soldier began disparaging him during pre-deployment training together.

Mr Roberts-Smith said he didn’t think he had “the required skills or ability to deploy to Afghanistan with the task group,” he said.

“He also said that he was going to do everything he could within his power to have me removed from the team and get one of his colleagues to replace me.”

After their troop’s insertion into Afghanistan in 2006, for two months the serving special forces soldier received negative performance reviews he said were due to Mr Roberts-Smith’s continual intimidation of him.

On the small base where they came into contact “relatively often” this included spitting “on the ground in front me,” and slamming doors in his face, he said.

One month after an observational mission in the Uruzgan Province, Person One recalls meeting Mr Roberts-Smith in a shared team room.

“(He said) words to the effect: ‘If your performance doesn’t improve in the next patrol you’re going to get a bullet in the back of the head’,” he said.

“It made me fearful for my own personal safety. It made me lose more confidence. It made my performance worse.”

After he told a number of SAS colleagues about the alleged threat, he said Mr Roberts-Smith “stood over me (and) looked down on me”.

“He said ‘if you’re going to make accusations c— you better have f—ing proof’.”

Mr Roberts-Smith is suing The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times for defamation and denies their reports that he committed war crimes and murders in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2012.

The former SAS corporal has strenuously denied all wrongdoing including allegations he assaulted a woman.

The 43-year-old Victoria Cross recipient categorically denied the accusations of bullying while giving evidence last year.

“I’ve never bullied Person One.”

He said Person One just wasn’t a “very good soldier” who wanted to cover up his poor performance.

“It’s always been the case,” he said.

On Thursday in the Federal Court, Person One recalled the Uruzgan Province mission where he viewed an unarmed Afghan below his rocky outcrop.

The bearded man did not display “dinner plate” eyes to suggest he was shocked to see them, and Person One believed it best not to “engage” and draw noise to their secret location.

Soon after he heard the suppressed gunfire shots from Mr Roberts-Smith’s weapon and another soldier’s weapon.

He disputed a later recorded log entry that stated the slain man was armed with an AK weapon, and “appeared to be aggressively patrolling” and “ready to fire”.

Person One “did not observe” any of those statements, he said, adding he thought their position was then compromised due to the open fire.

The newspapers’ barrister Nicholas Owens SC read out a number of Person One’s performance logs after he was moved on from Mr Roberts-Smith’s troop, with vastly improved results.

Person Seven later told Person One that Mr Roberts-Smith had been rubbishing his credibility, saying he was “an incompetent soldier, a coward, and … didn’t deserve to be in the regiment”.

The trial before Justice Anthony Besanko continues.

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– AAP