Johnny Depp testifies that he never abused ex-wife Amber Heard | Johnny Depp

Taking the stand in his libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, Johnny Depp said her domestic abuse allegations against him were disturbing, heinous and “not based in any species of truth”.

“Nothing of the kind ever happened,” Depp said in court on Tuesday. “Never did I myself reach the point of striking Ms Heard in any way. Nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

In a steady voice, Depp said he had brought the case to clear his name against accusations that he had abused Heard during their three-year marriage, and because he was concerned for his children and for the people who have believed in him.

“I am obsessed with the truth,” Depp said. “So today is actually my first opportunity that I’ve been able to speak about this case.”

He said the accusations against him had come “as a complete shock” – accusations that “just didn’t need to go in that direction”.

Depp’s testimony comes a week into a trial in Fairfax, Virginia, as part of a defamation case in which he accuses his ex-wife of ruining his career with false accusations of violence in their relationship.

Witnesses for the actor have largely conformed to Depp’s contention that his wife, not he, initiated marital discord and fights.

But the testimony has come at a cost, with Depp being depicted as a childlike Hollywood A-lister surrounded by a retinue of doctors, nurses, assistants, friends on the payroll and assorted hangers-on.

That depiction may still prove less damaging to the actor’s stalled career and ruined reputation than Heard’s claims that she was the victim of violent abuse during their three-year marriage.

On Monday, a doctor and a nurse recounted the hunt for the missing tip of Depp’s middle finger, severed in March 2015 while he was in Australia for the filming of the fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

The actor has accused Heard of throwing a bottle at him, severing the finger. Heard has said Depp probably cut his finger when he smashed a telephone. During the fight, she has alleged, Depp beat her, choked her and sexually assaulted her.

David Kipper, Depp’s “concierge doctor”, who treated the actor for addiction, earlier said that Depp’s chef found the missing finger amid blood and broken glass in the kitchen.

Before Depp’s testimony, the court heard from his on-set sound technician, Keenan Wyatt, who said shooting on the film was delayed for three weeks while Depp sought surgery.

Wyatt testified that he accompanied Depp, his former wife Vanessa Paradis and children to their home in the Bahamas on several occasions. Wyatt testified that Depp was a loving father who never raised his voice to his children and whose personality did not change when he drank – when instead “he became sleepy”.

“I’ve never seen him be violent toward anybody,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt’s testimony supports statements issued by Paradis and Winona Ryder, former partners of Depp, during the actor’s failed libel action against the Sun newspaper last year, denying that Depp ever acted violently or abusively towards them.

Several witnesses have characterised Heard as the abusive party. During a private plane trip from Boston to Los Angeles, Wyatt said, Heard was “giving Johnny the cold shoulder, being quiet, being pouty”. When he approached her, he testified, Heard responded: “How dare you talk to me?”

Under cross-examination, Wyatt denied that Depp shouted at Heard, “Get fucked with fucking James Franco” – referring to an affair Heard had allegedly had with the actor – and later passed out at the back of the plane.

Depp, 58, alleges that Heard, 35, defamed him when she wrote a December 2018 opinion piece in the Washington Post about being a survivor of domestic abuse. Heard maintains her opinion is protected as free speech under the first amendment to the US constitution. Depp filed a $50m lawsuit against Heard in 2018. Heard later filed a $100m counter-claim.

Much of the trial testimony has focused on Depp’s use of drugs and alcohol, and his difficultly in keeping to detox treatments. Heard’s lawyers have claimed Depp’s denial that he abused his wife lacks credibility because he frequently drank and used drugs to the point of blacking out.

Early in the trial, Depp’s sister confirmed she’d texted her brother in February 2014 to say: “Stop drinking, stop coke, stop pills.”

Depp’s legal team presented a video deposition of the couple’s therapist, who testified that the pair suffered childhood abuse and were engaged in “mutual abuse” during their relationship.

“It was a point of pride to her if she felt disrespected to initiate a fight,” Laurel Anderson testified. “She slapped him because he was being incoherent and talking about being with another woman.”

But Anderson also testified that Depp was overwhelmed by Heard, whom she described as talking like a “jackhammer”. Depp allegedly said to his wife: “No one likes you. You’re getting fame from me. I’m falling out of love with you. You’re a whore.”

Heard’s former assistant Kate James said Heard told her she did not enjoy hanging out with her husband’s friends because they were “boring, and all old men playing guitars, and it wasn’t interesting to her”.

Trial observers have speculated that the he said-she said nature of the case, streamed live to millions of viewers, represents as much an effort by Depp to rebuild his public image as it is a defamation trial.

That effort at once involves making himself appear vulnerable while presenting himself as the victim of a scheming woman who, his attorneys claim, returned to the issue of domestic abuse in her Washington Post editorial in order to hitch her career prospects to the #MeToo movement.

The parade of managers, bodyguards, doctors, therapists, nurses, friends and assistants giving testimony has provided an insight into the scaffolding that Depp kept around him. At times, Depp has appeared a prisoner of his own making.

Heard suggested as much in her Post column, describing his career as “a huge enterprise”, likening it to the Titanic, with a variety of people having a vested interest in patching up the holes. On Monday, Variety noted a “sordid culture of enablers” around the actor.

“The trial has felt like sifting through the wreckage of a royal court after its ruler has been deposed,” it noted.

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