Hollywood star Johnny Depp on Monday lost his libel battle with a British tabloid that labelled him a “wife beater”, after a London High Court judge ruled that the paper’s allegations were “substantially true”.

In a ruling that could severely damage his reputation and career, Judge Andrew Nicol said he accepted claims by Depp’s ex-wife, actress Amber Heard, that he had violently assaulted her on numerous occasions during their tempestuous five-year relationship.

“I have found that the great majority of alleged assaults of Ms Heard by Mr Depp have been proved to the civil standard,” said Nicol, accepting that 12 of the 14 assaults had taken place.

“It follows that this claim is dismissed,” Nicol added.

Depp, 57, famed for his role in films such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Edward Scissorhands, had sued News Group Newspapers, publishers of the Sun, and one of its journalists, Dan Wootton, over a 2018 article which stated he had been violent towards Heard, 34.

The newspaper also questioned his casting in the “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” movie franchise.

Over the course of three weeks at London’s High Court in July, judge Andrew Nicol heard evidence from both Depp and Heard about their fiery marriage, alleged affairs, his hedonistic lifestyle and battle with drink and drugs, and their furious rows. Both accused the other of violent outbursts.

Heard said Depp would turn into a jealous alter ego, “the monster”, after bingeing on drugs and alcohol. He had often threatened to kill her, she said. Heard detailed 14 occasions of extreme violence when she said the actor choked, punched, slapped, head-butted, throttled and kicked her.

Depp had told the court he was never violent towards his ex-wife, saying her claims were a hoax and that he had lost the tip of a finger after she threw a vodka bottle at him during one particularly ferocious row in Australia.

Nicol rejected Depp’s characterisation of Heard as a gold-digger and his allegation that her claims were a hoax.

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