By Michael Holden
LONDON (Reuters) - Hollywood star Johnny Depp's former long-term partner Vanessa Paradis and his ex-girlfriend actress Winona Ryder said accusations that he had abused his ex-wife were false and did not reflect the person they knew, London's High Court was told.
Depp, 57, is suing the publisher of Britain's Sun newspaper for libel over an article which labelled him a "wife beater" and says it was he who suffered domestic violence at the hands of Heard during their volatile relationship.
The paper argues its story is true and the court has been told Heard, 34, accuses her ex-husband of attacking her on at least 14 occasions between 2013 and 2016 when enraged after drinking or taking drugs to excess.
In witness statements submitted to the court and released on Thursday, two of Depp's former partners, Paradis and Ryder said he was never violent towards them and had been kind and protective.
Paradis, with whom he spent 14 years and had two children, said Heard's allegations about Depp were nothing like the "true Johnny" she knew.
"I have seen that these outrageous statements have been really distressing, and also caused damage to his career because unfortunately people have gone on believing these false facts," her statement said.
Ryder, who was engaged to Depp in the early 1990s, said she could not wrap her head around the accusations which had left her shocked and confused.
"The idea that he is an incredibly violent person is the farthest thing from the Johnny I knew and loved," her statement said. "I do not want to call anyone a liar but from my experience of Johnny, it is impossible to believe that such horrific allegations are true."
Depp has a tattoo which once said "Winona Forever" but he changed to "Wino Forever" and the judge has been told by the Sun's lawyer Sasha Wass that the first incident of violence took place in 2013 when Heard mocked him about it because he had started drinking again.
Both Paradis and Ryder had been due to give evidence in person but Depp's lawyer David Sherborne said their testimony was no longer needed because their statements that he had never been violent had not been challenged.
Earlier the court was told by Depp's bodyguard Sean Bett that there were a number of times when Heard had left visible injuries on his employer after she had attacked him.
He said one of these had taken place on April 21, 2016, after a party for Heard's 30th birthday. The court has been told previously that she alleges Depp had assaulted her when she became upset because he had turned up late to the party.
He denies this and says she assaulted him, throwing a "haymaker" punch during the row.
Bett said he had driven Depp to another of his homes after the argument and he had taken a photo of the actor's face after he related that Heard had punched him.
However, the court heard there was a dispute over a photo submitted as part of Bett's evidence and that the picture included with his witness statement was in fact taken after another incident on March 23, 2015.
Wass told the court that that incident, another of the occasions when Depp is accused of assaulting his ex-wife, was one where Heard "admits she punched Mr Depp in defence of her younger sister" and the only occasion when she did so.
Bett said the photo he said he took the following year looked very similar, but accepted he could not find the original.
The bodyguard was also asked about an incident in May 2016 when Heard accuses Depp of hurling a mobile phone at her which struck her face, leaving a bruise on her cheek. Bett said he saw there was no visible injury to her face.
Depp has already given evidence over five days and Heard is expected to appear in the witness box next week.
(Editing by Alexandra Hudson)