Johnny Depp lost his high-profile libel claim against the publisher of The Sun over allegations he was violent towards his ex-wife Amber Heard during their relationship – claims the Hollywood star vehemently denies. The pair met in around 2011 on the set of The Rum Diary, a film adaption of a novel by Mr Depp’s friend Hunter S Thompson, before they started living together in around 2012.
Here is a timeline of the key events in their relationship and the bitter legal battle that has ensued.
– Early 2013: Mr Depp is alleged to have been physically violent to Ms Heard for the first time.
Ms Heard claims Mr Depp slapped her three times after she joked about a tattoo he got on his arm during his relationship with actress Winona Ryder, which originally read “Winona Forever”, but was altered to “Wino Forever” after they split. He denies the allegation.
– February 3: The couple marry in a private ceremony at their home in Los Angeles.
– Around March 3-5: The key incident in The Sun’s defence, a three-day trip to Australia has been described by Ms Heard as a “three-day hostage situation” in which Mr Depp was allegedly physically and verbally abusive while drinking heavily and taking drugs.
Mr Depp denies the allegations and says Ms Heard lost her temper after a conversation about a post-nuptial agreement.
– April 21: The couple arrive in Australia with their pet Yorkshire Terriers Boo and Pistol, which they did not declare to customs officials in Queensland. Ms Heard was charged with bringing the dogs into the country illegally – though the charges were later dropped and the pair recorded a bizarre video apology.
– Around May 22: The pair separate, Ms Heard claims after an incident at their LA penthouse in which Mr Depp allegedly became very angry and destroyed property with a bottle of champagne.
– May 23: Ms Heard files a petition for the dissolution of their marriage.
– May 27: Ms Heard applies for a temporary domestic violence restraining order, which prevents Mr Depp from contacting her.
– August 16: The estranged couple reach an agreement concerning the dissolution of their marriage. Ms Heard later donates her seven million US dollar (£5.5 million) settlement to charity.
– January 13: The couple are formally divorced.
– April 27: The column by The Sun’s executive editor Dan Wootton is published online at around 10pm. Under the headline “Gone Potty – How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beasts film?”, Mr Wootton asked if the Harry Potter author had been “blinded by a personal friendship” with Mr Depp.
The piece also quoted two alleged victims of disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein, which Mr Depp says was included to “finish his career”.
– April 28: The following day, the online article is amended to remove the words “wife beater” from the headline, which was not included in the print edition.
– June 1: Mr Depp files his libel claim against News Group Newspapers (NGN). His written claim, filed a few weeks later, alleges the article “caused serious harm to (his) personal and professional reputation” and also caused him “significant distress and embarrassment”.
– December 18: The Washington Post publishes an op-ed by Ms Heard which did not mention Mr Depp by name, but said the actress “became a public figure representing domestic abuse, and I felt the full force of our culture’s wrath for women who speak out”.
– February 27: Mr Depp fights off a bid to halt his English legal action after The Sun applies for his claim to be “stayed unless and until” the star confirmed in writing that he would not sue Ms Heard if she participated in a forthcoming trial.
– March 1: Mr Depp files a libel case against Ms Heard in Virginia, blaming the Washington Post piece for him being dropped from the Pirates Of The Caribbean franchise and claiming Ms Heard was the one who had been abusive towards him.
– February 26: Mr Depp attends the High Court in London for a preliminary hearing ahead of a trial due to begin the following month. The star heard NGN’s barrister Adam Wolanski read out texts sent by Mr Depp, including one from November 2013 to actor Paul Bettany, in which Mr Depp wrote: “Let’s burn Amber.”
He also wrote: “Let’s drown her before we burn her!!! I will f*** her burnt corpse afterwards to make sure she is dead.”
– March 20: The trial, which was due to begin on March 23, is postponed due to the global coronavirus crisis. NGN’s lawyers had claimed Mr Depp wanted to delay the trial “because he’s a coward and because he knows he’s going to lose”, which was denied by Mr Depp’s legal team.
– April 8: Mr Justice Nicol rules parts of Ms Heard’s evidence, relating to allegations of sexual violence, will be heard in private.
– May 13: The court gives permission for Mr Depp’s former partners Vanessa Paradis and Winona Ryder – who both say Mr Depp was “never violent” to them – to give evidence. Ms Heard’s former personal assistant Kate James is also permitted to give evidence.
– June 25: NGN asks the court to throw out Mr Depp’s claim just two weeks before trial over the star’s failure to disclose text messages of him apparently trying to buy drugs in Australia in 2015. The publisher’s lawyers say Mr Depp deliberately withheld text messages they say show him trying to obtain “MDMA and other narcotics”.
– June 29: Mr Justice Nicol rules Mr Depp did breach a court order by not disclosing documents from separate libel proceedings against Ms Heard in the US – which include the text messages. But Mr Depp’s lawyers argue it would be “wholly disproportionate” to strike out the actor’s libel claim.
– July 2: The High Court rules Mr Depp’s claim can go ahead after granting his application for “relief from sanctions” for the breach of a court order.
– July 4: The trial judge, Mr Justice Nicol, refuses an application by Mr Depp’s lawyers to exclude Ms Heard from court until she gives evidence.
– July 7: The trial finally begins at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, with Mr Depp and Ms Heard giving evidence, as well as several of the couple’s friends and past and present employees.
– July 28 – The trial ends after 16 days.
– Nov 2 – Mr Depp loses his High Court libel action. In his ruling, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed the Pirates Of The Caribbean star’s claim, saying NGN had proved what was in the article to be “substantially true”.
The judge said: “Although he has proved the necessary elements of his cause of action in libel, the defendants have shown that what they published in the meaning which I have held the words to bear was substantially true.
“I have reached these conclusions having examined in detail the 14 incidents on which the defendants rely as well as the overarching considerations which the claimant submitted I should take into account.”