LONDON • Hollywood star Johnny Depp has lost his libel battle with a British tabloid that labelled him a "wife beater", after a London High Court judge ruled he had repeatedly assaulted his former wife and put her in fear for her life.
In a ruling that could severely damage Depp's reputation and career, Judge Andrew Nicol said he accepted claims from the actor's ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, that Depp had violently assaulted her during their tempestuous five-year relationship.
"I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard," said Mr Nicol.
Depp's lawyers described the ruling as "perverse as it is bewildering", and said it would be ridiculous for him not to appeal.
Depp, 57, star of films including Pirates Of The Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands, had sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, and one of its journalists, Mr Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which stated he had been violent towards Heard, 34.
The newspaper also questioned his casting in the Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them movie franchise.
Judge Nicol ruled that the paper's allegations were "substantially true", adding: "It follows that this claim is dismissed."
Over the course of three weeks at London's High Court in July, the judge heard evidence from both Depp and Heard about their fiery marriage, alleged affairs, his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with drink and drugs, and their furious rows. Each accused the other of violent outbursts.
Heard said Depp would turn into a jealous alter ego, "the monster", after bingeing on drugs and alcohol. He had often threatened to kill her, she said.
She detailed 14 occasions of extreme violence when she said the actor choked, punched, slapped, head-butted, throttled and kicked her.
Mr Nicol said he accepted 12 of these accounts were true, including Depp assaulting her after her 30th birthday party and another incident which left her with black eyes. He also supported her description of a three-day ordeal of "sustained and multiple assaults" while they were in Australia.
The couple met while making The Rum Diary in 2011 and married four years later, but divorced in 2016.