Ben Roberts-Smith defamation trial to hear from private investigator John McLeod

Court documents have claimed a veteran private eye cut ties with Victoria-Cross recipient Ben Roberts-Smith over “threatening letters”.

It comes as the Federal Court hears the high profile investigator will give evidence about “surveilling” the soldier’s girlfriend at an abortion clinic.

John McLeod, a former policeman, has long made headlines as a fixer helping high-profile Australians stranded in foreign prisons.

The security provider helped with the recent rescue of academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert from Iran.

He also helped to bring back his friend Adam Whittington after he became stranded in Lebanon as part of the bungled 60 Minutes child recovery story.

Mr McLeod met Mr Roberts-Smith in Brisbane in 2011, his evidence outline released by the Federal Court on Friday said, and he became “relatively close” to the soldier’s family.

It was early 2018, Mr McLeod’s outline says, that Mr Roberts-Smith reached out and asked him to conduct “surveillance” on a woman.

Mr Roberts-Smith did not tell his fixer the name of the woman, the document says.

“She was going to the Greenslopes day hospital or day surgery. (Mr Roberts-Smith) said to McLeod something like, ‘All I want is video of her arriving, entering and leaving’.”

“(Mr Roberts-Smith) told McLeod it was for an executive at Channel 7.”

But the court has heard, from Mr Roberts-Smith himself, that the surveillance was not related to the media network where he works.

Instead, he told the court in June, the woman was his girlfriend who had flown into Brisbane for an abortion.

Mr Roberts-Smith told the court he thought the woman was lying about carrying his child and he wanted Mr McLeod to film her after the procedure she was expected to have at Greenslopes.

Mr Roberts-Smith told the court the woman, known only as Person 17, looked fit and fine after leaving the surgery – but when he met her a short time later she seemed frail and weak.

The soldier said he showed Person 17 the video Mr McLeod filmed of her leaving the surgery and she changed her story to say she’d had the abortion earlier.

Mr Roberts-Smith concluded she was not being truthful, he told the court.

He has denied he had an affair with the woman, insisting he was separated from his wife during their relationship.

He also denies striking her after she drunkenly fell down a staircase in Canberra.

Greenslopes has told the court it has no medical records related to Person 17.

The court has previously heard it’s been hard to serve documents on Mr McLeod – he has not been answering his door.

However Nine’s witness list shows he is expected to give evidence for the newspapers along with Mr Roberts-Smith’s former wife, Emma Roberts.

Some weeks after the Greenslopes surveillance Mr McLeod says he was approached again by Mr Roberts-Smith.

The pair met at a Bunnings outside Brisbane where the war hero handed his fixer a plastic folder.

“I‘m under the pump, I’m flat out, can you post for me,” Mr Roberts-Smith said, according to Mr McLeod.

The plastic folder contained sealed envelopes, blank except for stamps and slips of paper bearing names.

“You‘re not that f***ing stupid to send anything silly in the mail,” Mr McLeod claims he responded.

Mr McLeod said Mr Roberts-Smith indicated it was nothing to worry about but something related to “watches” which the fixer understood to be SAS related.

What Mr McLeod did with one of the envelopes is not explained in the documents – the fixer has indicated he will seek a protection of the court before he divulges that in evidence.

Nine claims Mr Roberts-Smith was sending threats to another SAS veteran who was willing to testify against him on allegations of war crimes.

Mr Roberts-Smith flatly denies those allegations.

Another former close family friend, Danielle Scott, is expected to lend weight to the accusation Mr Roberts-Smith was having threats sent via Mr McLeod.

In her own outline of evidence Ms Scott said she spoke with her best friend, Mr Roberts-Smith’s ex wife, about Mr McLeod.

“Ben got John to send the threatening letters (as reported by Nine newspapers),” Ms Scott said, recalling the words of her friend.

“Once John realised that Ben had used him to send those letters, John approached Ben about it and they had a falling out.”

Mr Roberts-Smith directed Mr McLeod to throw the other two envelopes out, the fixer said, but he kept them in his office.

“McLeod retained the two remaining envelopes and the pieces of paper with the names of the intended recipients and he has caused them to be provided to the AFP,” the documents state.

The SAS veteran on the receiving end of the letters, the court has heard, is known only as Person 18.

“You and others have worked together to spread lies and rumours to the media and (Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force) inquiry,” the June 2018 letter reads.

The IGADF, at that time, was hearing evidence from the SAS veterans about war crime allegations in Afghanistan – including Mr Roberts-Smith, his friends and those he disliked.

“You have one chance to save yourself,” the letters said.

“You must approach the inquiry and admit that you have colluded with others to spread lies.”

The letter warned that the people being lied about would shift their focus to Person 18 if he did not retract his statements to the investigators.

Mr Roberts-Smith denied he sent those letters or had Mr McLeod send them on his behalf.

He also denied a heated conversation with his former wife about his fingerprints on the letters and denied burning the envelopes at his home.

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