Mon. Apr 15th, 2024
alert-–-heston-russell:-witness-apologises-to-ex-commando-after-he-sued-abcAlert – Heston Russell: Witness apologises to ex-commando after he sued ABC

The witness at the centre of the case around former special forces commando Heston Russell has now apologised to the ex-soldier.

Mr Russell successfully sued the ABC over stories published in 2020 and 2021 that he claimed made it look like he was being investigated for shooting an unarmed prisoner.

The stories Mr Russell sued over, written and produced by journalists Mark Willacy and Josh Robertson, aired on television, radio and online in October 2020 and  November 2021.

The Federal Court was told the allegations arose from a former US Marine named ‘Josh’, who contacted Willacy about his time in Afghanistan working with Australian soldiers and said he was not a witness but heard a ‘pop’ on the radio he believed was a gunshot.

Mr Russell successfully sued the ABC over stories published in 2020 and 2021 that he claimed made it look like he was being investigated for shooting an unarmed prisoner

That marine, who chose not to be named, has now issued an apology to Mr Russell, who was awarded $390,000 in damages by the Federal Court.

READ MORE: The staggering sum of YOUR money the ABC could be forced to pay ex-commando – as reporter Mark Willacy’s words come back to haunt him 

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‘I had no experience with that type of media interaction in the past, and this has been a lesson learnt about how my intentions may not have matched the intentions of the people I spoke with,’ he said in a statement, 2GB reported.

‘I was naive about how everything would play out, and in retrospect should have been much more thoughtful about what was shared.’

The ex-marine then said he had no plans on ever speaking to the media or anyone else about Mr Russell’s unit again.

‘I’m sorry my lesson learned came at your expense,’ he continued.

‘I can only imagine the stress it put on you and the people you care about.’

Mr Russell won his defamation case after Justice Michael Lee found the ABC could not prove the articles were published in the public interest. 

Evidence tendered to the court revealed the US marine told Willacy his memory was ‘fuzzy’ and he couldn’t remember all the details about the allegation.

He also couldn’t tell Willacy who was involved specifically, just that it was an Australian group of soldiers.

The former US marine, who chose not to be named, has now issued an apology to Mr Russell, who was awarded $390,000 in damages by the Federal Court

The first article relied on the evidence of ‘Josh’, while the second article was based on an unsuccessful freedom of information request about a criminal investigation into the conduct of an Australian commando platoon in Afghanistan in 2012.

While the articles contained a denial from Mr Russell, he claimed the use of his name and photo implied he was involved in the death of an Afghan prisoner. 

Legal costs of the case are set to be announced on Tuesday. 

Mr Russell won his defamation case after Justice Michael Lee found the ABC could not prove the articles were published in the public interest

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