United Kingdom

Johnny Depp was never violent to me, ex-fiancée Winona Ryder will say

Johnny Depp's former fiancée Winona Ryder will tell the High Court this week that he was never abusive or violent to her, as his blockbuster libel case over allegations of domestic violence by his ex-wife Amber Heard continues.

Pirates of the Caribbean star Depp, 57, who will give evidence again today, is suing The Sun publisher News Group Newspapers and its executive editor Dan Wootton over an April 2018 article which labelled him a 'wife beater'.

Depp is said to have attacked Heard, 34, throughout their tempestuous relationship, which has been described as 'a crime scene waiting to happen', and put her in fear for her life - claims he says are 'a choreographed hoax'.

But Ryder, who starred with Depp in the 1991 film Edward Scissorhands and is due to give evidence via videolink on Wednesday, wrote in a statement: 'We were together as a couple for four years. I counted him as my best friend, and as close to me as family.

Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder in Los Angeles in September 1990. Ryder is due to give evidence via videolink on Wednesday

Johnny Depp (left) and Amber Heard (right) are pictured last Friday outside the High Court in London last Friday as the Hollywood actor's blockbuster libel case over allegations of domestic violence continues

'I obviously was not there during his marriage to Amber, but, from my experience, which was so wildly different, I was absolutely shocked, confused and upset when I heard the accusations against him. 

'The idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the farthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved. I cannot wrap my head around these accusations.'

Stranger Things actress Ryder was in a relationship with Depp during the early 1990s, and he famously tattooed 'Winona Forever' on his arm – before changing it to 'Wino Forever' following their split.

Depp has been questioned since Tuesday over 14 alleged domestic violence incidents, and his Hollywood lifestyle, past relationships with Ryder, Vanessa Paradis and Kate Moss, and his well-documented use of drink and drugs. 

Photographs show bruising across the bridge of Heard's nose and under her eyes after Depp allegedly headbutted her in 2015

Photos after the incident in December 2015 show bruising to Heard's face after Depp allegedly headbutted her

Depp is alleged to have trashed a penthouse in Los Angeles, California, which Heard used as a colossal closet

Depp admitted to leaving graffiti on a bathroom mirror after the fight with Heard, which resulted in his finger being severed

Johnny Depp v The Sun: Key issues in libel trial 

Hollywood star Johnny Depp's libel claim against The Sun enters its second week on Monday. These are the key issues the trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, has to determine.

- Whether the April 2018 article by the tabloid's executive editor Dan Wootton was defamatory of Mr Depp. Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless its publication causes 'serious harm to the reputation of the claimant'.

- The Sun's publisher, News Group Newspapers (NGN), is defending the claim and relying on a defence of truth. It is for the publisher to prove that the allegations made in the article are 'substantially true'.

- The meaning of the article, which is defined as what it would mean to the 'reasonable reader', will have to be determined by the judge. But NGN's lawyers say the differences between the rival meanings contended by each side are 'not significant' and the outcome of the case will therefore not turn on meaning.

- Mr Depp's case is that the article bore 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 he 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'. He strenuously denies the allegations and claims he 'has never hit or committed any acts of physical violence against Ms Heard'.

- The meaning which NGN will seek to prove is true is that the Claimant beat his wife Amber Heard, causing her to suffer significant injury and on occasion leading her to fearing for her life. They rely on 14 separate allegations of violence and allege more generally that Mr Depp was 'controlling and verbally and physically abusive' towards Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and or drugs, throughout their relationship. NGN's lawyers say an important issue for the judge to decide will be what substances Mr Depp was using during the relationship. They contend that he frequently lost control of himself, partly because of his heavy drug and alcohol use, and also that his memory has been impaired by his heavy use of drugs.

- If Mr Depp wins his case, the judge will have to decide what level of compensation he should receive for the harm to his reputation and for the 'distress, hurt and humiliation caused'. There is an upper limit on general damages for libel of £300,000 to £325,000. However, if he succeeds, Mr Depp may also be entitled to aggravated damages. The actor is also asking for a final injunction against NGN, who his legal team say 'have retained the article on their website and maintained their allegation to the bitter end'.

The court has heard disputed accounts of a three-day trip to Australia, when Depp lost the top of his middle finger, and the so-called 'defecation incident' in which faeces were found in the couple's bed after Heard's 30th birthday.

Depp is due to finish giving evidence today after around 20 hours in the witness box at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. 

NGN's lawyers have said Depp first hit his ex-wife in early 2013 during a heated argument over a painting - which he allegedly tried to set alight - by Heard's ex Tasya van Ree and attacked her on a number of other occasions before the couple split in May 2016.

The publisher claims Depp is a 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' character who snapped when he was drunk and on drugs and turned into 'the Monster' - an 'alter ego' he assumed when he would 'lose control and become a violent thug'.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star has admitted giving misleading evidence about his drink and drug use before a flight from Boston to LA in May 2014 and 'accidentally' headbutting Heard during a row at their home in December 2015, but says his ex-wife's allegations are 'complete lies' and that she was 'the abuser' in the relationship.

He accuses Heard of severing the top of his middle finger with a vodka bottle in Australia in March 2015 and of 'building a dossier very early on' in their relationship to align herself with the #MeToo movement.

The court also heard evidence last week on Friday afternoon from LAPD officer Melissa Saenz who attended the couple's penthouse after the actor allegedly hit Heard in the face with her own mobile phone in May 2016, who said she 'did not see any injuries' or damage to the apartment.

Paradis, 47, and Ryder, 48, were originally due to give evidence this week, as was alleged Harvey Weinstein victim Katherine Kendall, 50, who accuses Mr Wootton of 'deliberately misusing' her quotes and 'using the #MeToo movement' to damage Depp.

Heard's evidence was expected to begin on Friday morning - but it is not clear when the Aquaman actress will give evidence as Depp's cross-examination has taken almost two days longer than scheduled.

The three-week trial, which is due to finish on July 27, will also hear evidence from current and former employees of Depp and Heard, as well as her sister and friends by video-link from LA.

The actor is suing NGN and Mr Wootton over the publication of an article on April 27 2018 with the headline: 'Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be 'genuinely happy' casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?'

NGN is defending the article as true, and says Depp was 'controlling and verbally and physically abusive towards Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs'.

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