War hero’s shocking photo emerges
Pictures have been leaked showing Australia's most decorated living soldier cheering on mates as they drink from the prosthetic leg of a dead Afghan militant.
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald published the photographs on Monday showing ex-Special Air Service soldier Ben Roberts-Smith drinking beers with other soldiers while on deployment to Afghanistan in 2009.
One photograph shows Mr Roberts-Smith pumping his fist and smiling towards the camera willingly as a soldier drinks from the prosthetic leg. Mr Roberts-Smith clutches a Heineken with the other hand.
A second photograph shows the Victoria Cross recipient with his arm around a soldier. The other man holds the same prosthetic leg.
The pictures directly contradict comments made in the Federal Court by Mr Roberts-Smith's lawyer Bruce McClintock, who said his client was "thought it was disgusting to souvenir a body part, albeit an artificial one from someone who had been killed in action".
Nine newspapers report the disabled Afghan militant was killed by Mr Roberts-Smith, who claims he was a member of the Taliban who died in battle.
The killing is the subject of a war crimes inquiry but Mr Roberts-Smith, who was awarded the Victoria Cross in 2011 for bravery under fire during his fifth tour of Afghanistan, has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
The 42-year-old former soldier, who left the Army as a Corporal in 2013, is involved in a long-running defamation case involving Nine newspapers and TV network.
Mr Roberts-Smith's conduct is being investigated in the bombshell Brereton Report into alleged war crimes by Australian soldiers in Afghanistan.
The report does not name the soldiers allegedly involved in wrongdoing but the investigation into Mr Roberts-Smith was laid bare in a defamation case in the Federal Court.
Mr Roberts-Smith is suing the owners of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald for defamation following two reports that included allegations he kicked a bound Afghan villager off a cliff and had him executed.
His barrister told the Federal Court in September that stories contained a number of errors including the wrong date for the alleged war crimes.
It was first reported the incident took place on or about October 21, 2012.
However, lawyers for Nine have since amended the date of the allegation in documents before the court to November 5, 2012.
The most recent leaked pictures follow exclusive reports in The Guardian that showed SAS soldiers drinking beer from the prosthetic leg.
A number of photographs were provided to the publication but none showed Mr Roberts-Smith. His lawyer has previously made comments claiming he did not drink from the fake leg.
The Guardian reports the pictures were taken at a bar inside the Australian base at Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province in 2009.
There had previously been reports about the existence of pictures showing soldiers drinking and celebrating with the prosthetic leg but pictures did not surface until the beginning of this month.
Mr Roberts-Smith has welcomed the appointment of a special investigator to test the claims of wrongdoing in Afghanistan.
In a statement dated November 13, he said: "I welcome the announcement today by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence which has for the first time accurately clarified that it was no part of the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force's (IGADF) remit to make any findings of fact in relation to rumours concerning special forces soldiers.
"It is heartening to hear that these matters, which have been the subject of rumours for years, will now be examined by a Special Investigator's Office with expertise and experience to consider evidence not rumours and make decisions based on evidence rather than on unsubstantiated rumours.
"It is regrettable that the IGADF Inquiry took such an extraordinarily long time to be finalised. While I appreciate the complexity of the task ahead for the Special Investigator, I am hopeful that this next phase will be completed as expeditiously as possible so that all the current and former special forces soldiers who have been deeply impacted by the Inquiry process can move on with their lives."
News.com.au has approached Mr Roberts-Smith's lawyers for comment.
Originally published as War hero's shocking photo emerges