How was Johnny Depp’s finger severed in Australia fight and why is it central to his case against Amber Heard?

Depp and Heard each shared their own accounts of the events that led to Depp losing the tip of his finger during their defamation trial

Megan Sheets ,Clémence Michallon
Thursday 26 May 2022 21:02 BST
Amber Heard testifies Johnny Depp penetrated her with a bottle
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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


WARNING: This article contains allegations of physical and sexual violence that some readers may find distressing.

Over six weeks of explosive testimony in the defamation trial opposing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, one especially gruelling fight has captured prominence in the case.

What’s become known as the “severed finger incident” unfolded in March 2015 when the couple were staying in Australia while Mr Depp filmed the fifth instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.

Mr Depp and Ms Heard each shared their own accounts of the events that led to Mr Depp losing the tip of his finger; with him alleging that it was cut when Ms Heard threw a vodka bottle at him. Ms Heard said she was not awake when the injury occurred and claimed that Mr Depp assaulted her with a vodka bottle the same night.

Attorneys for both actors brought in their own medical experts to testify about the injury and what could have caused it, while witnesses for Mr Depp described efforts to locate the tip of the finger.

The jury was also shown countless grueling photos of Mr Depp’s wound as well as messages he wrote in blood and paint on the walls that night.

Whether jurors choose to believe Mr Depp or Ms Heard’s account of the fight is likely to have huge implications on the outcome of the case in which both stars claim they were victimised by the other.

Here’s a breakdown of the evidence at play:

Depp’s testimony

Mr Depp testified about the alleged incident during his own turn as a witness last month.

Mr Depp alleged that Ms Heard became “irate” during a discussion about a postnuptial agreement. “She could not let go of the fact that I was in on this postnup agreement and that I was trying to trick her into essentially getting nothing if something were to happen,” Mr Depp said.

Johnny Depp describes how his finger was severed during his trial against Amber Heard
Johnny Depp describes how his finger was severed during his trial against Amber Heard

He said he told Ms Heard those were not his intentions, but that the conversation escalated into “madness”, “chaos”, and “violence”.

“She was irate and she was possessed,” he said, adding that Ms Heard was “hammering” him with “brutal words”. “Pardon my language, but I remember that it wasn’t nice being called an a**-kisser to lawyers or a p***y that didn’t fight for her or stand up for her.”

Asked how his finger became injured, Mr Depp said things “were all getting too crazy”. “I went behind the bar, I grabbed a bottle of vodka that was there and a shot glass,” he said. Mr Depp said he “poured [himself] two or three stiff shots of vodka”, which were “the first taste of alcohol [he’d] had in a long time”.

He alleged that Ms Heard, having found him at the bar, started screaming at him about his drinking. “She walked up to me and reached and grabbed the bottle of vodka and then just kind of stood back and hurled it at me,” he said. “And it just went right past my head and smashed behind me.”

Mr Depp said he grabbed another bottle, poured himself a shot, and drank it. He alleged that Ms Heard was flinging insults at him and grabbed that bottle and threw it at him. He alleged that the bottle “made contact” with him and “shattered everywhere”.

“I didn’t feel the pain at first at all,” he said. “I felt no pain whatsoever. I felt heat and I felt as if something were dripping down my hand. And then I looked down and realized that the tip of my finger had been severed, and I was looking directly at my bones sticking out.”

Mr Depp said “blood was just pouring out”.

“I think that I went into some sort of – I don’t know what a nervous breakdown feels like, but that’s probably the closest that I’ve ever been,” he said.

“Nothing made sense. I knew in my mind and in my heart, this is not life, this is not life. No one should have to go through this. And as I said, this feeling of being in the middle of some sort of nervous breakdown, I started to write in my own blood on the walls little reminders from our past that essentially represented lies that she had told me, and lies that I had caught her in.”

Mr Depp said that he called his doctor and told him, “You might want to come over, I’ve cut my finger off here.”

Mr Depp said that once in the emergency room, he told a doctor he had smashed his finger in a door because he did not want to “get [Ms Heard] in trouble”. “I didn’t want to put her name in that mix,” he said.

Mr Depp testified that after the alleged incident, “for all intents and purposes, [he] was just done.”

Cross examination by Ms Heard’s team focused heavily on the messages Mr Depp wrote on the walls with a mixture of paint and blood.

Her attorney, Ben Rottenborn, quoted Mr Depp from his UK trial against The Sun, during which he said that “I recall painting on a lampshade, on a wall, on a mirror. I remember dunking my finger into paint thinner and using paint when I had run out of blood to paint with, and I could have defaced the painting I suppose, but I do not remember a painting specifically”.

Ms Heard came to Australia after filming London Fields with Billy Bob Thornton. Mr Rottenborn said Mr Depp wrote, “starring Billy Bob” and “Easy Amber” in one of the messages.

There was also a back and forth on whether Mr Depp defaced a painting by drawing a penis.

Heard’s testimony

Ms Heard was asked about the incident, which allegedly took place in March 2015 (about a month after she and Mr Depp got married), on her second day of testimony (5 May).

Ms Heard said Mr Depp was “very upset” about her working with Eddie Redmayne on The Danish Girl and other actors. She recounted a “belligerant” interaction with Mr Depp that made her realize “the arrows were pointed at [her] again”.

Amber Heard cries on the witness stand in her trial against Johnny Depp
Amber Heard cries on the witness stand in her trial against Johnny Depp (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

A physical altercation began, during which Ms Heard said Mr Depp “slams me against the wall hard” and called her names.

At one point, Ms Heard said Mr Depp threw her into a ping-pong table, got on top of her, and whacked her in the face repetitively.

Ms Heard was visibly distressed as she continued her testimony. She said Mr Depp struck her in a manner that “sent [her] down to the ground”, and that when she got up Mr Depp threw a bottle in her direction. She said at one point he had a broken bottle up next to her face and neck, and told her he would “carve up [her] face”.

Ms Heard said her memories of the night came to her as “flashes”. Eventually, she said, Mr Depp was throwing bottles in her direction and she could “feel glass breaking behind [her]” and one bottle going past her head, which left her “terrified”.

She said Mr Depp ripped her nightgown off her chest and that the nightgown was eventually ripped off completely, leaving her naked.

She alleged that Mr Depp started punching the wall next to her head and holding her by the neck. At some point, she said Mr Depp ended up “on top of [her]”, telling her she’d “ruined [his] f****** life”.

“I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t get through to him, I couldn’t get up,” she said. “I don’t know how that ended. I don’t know how – I don’t know what happened next.” Ms Heard sobbed as she continued: “The next thing I remember, I was bent over backwards on the bar, meaning my chest was up. I was staring at the blue light. My back is on the countertop and I thought he was punching me. I felt this pressure on my pubic bone. I thought he was punching me. I could feel his arm moving and it looked like he was punching me. But I could just feel this pressure.”

Ms Heard said she remembered being still, not wanting to move, looking around the room, and seeing broken bottles and broken glass. “I remember not wanting to move because I didn’t know of it was broken – I didn’t know if the bottle that he had inside me was broken,” she said. “I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t feel pain. I didn’t feel pain. I didn’t feel anything. ... I looked around and I saw so much broken glass. ... I just remember thinking ‘Please God, please. I hope it’s not broken.’”

Ms Heard said she took sleeping pills and woke up to find Mr Depp “missing a finger”. “He kind of held it up,” she said. “And I said, ‘What did you do? When?’ And I realized in my head that there had been many hours since this probably happened.”

Ms Heard suggested the cut might have occurred when she said Mr Depp smashed up a phone earlier.

Doctors disagree on cause of the injury

Ms Heard’s team brought in an orthopaedic surgeon to weigh in on Mr Depp’s wound in testimony on 23 May.

Dr Richard Moore, a hand surgery specialist from North Carolina, disputed Mr Depp’s claim that his finger was severed by a shattered vodka bottle, calling it “not consistent with what we see in the described injury pattern or the clinical photographs.” To him, the injury was more consistent with the finger being squeezed between two hard surfaces, he said.

Dr Moore said he couldn’t see any evidence of damage to the fingernail that he would expect from an injury when the finger was struck by a bottle from above. He also noted that doctors who treated Mr Depp immediately after the incident did not mention finding any glass in the wound.

Under cross-examination, Mr Depp’s lawyers referenced the actor’s testimony that his finger was wrapped around the bar and that the bottle struck him at an angle, not directly from above.

They also pointed to written testimony in which Dr Moore said:“I can’t rule anything out completely. I can’t rule out that he caught it in the door, cut it with a knife, or slammed it in a car door ... We can’t definitively say what caused this injury.”

On redirect, Ms Heard’s attorney read out the rest of that quote: “The question I can answer is that the mechanism that was described by Mr Depp and demonstrated by Mr Depp is inconsistent with the injury pattern that’s found on the images in the description.”

Johnny Depp is seen in the hospital after his finger was severed
Johnny Depp is seen in the hospital after his finger was severed (REUTERS)

Dr Dr Richard Gilbert, an orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in the hand, offered his own professional opinions when he testified as a witness for Mr Depp on 26 May.

The physician confirmed that he is aware of Mr Depp’s account of how the injury happened - by a vodka bottle thrown by Ms Heard - and her account that he may have cut the finger by smashing a phone against a wall.

Asked whether Mr Depp’s version of events was credible based on medical records, Dr Gilbert responded: “I do believe so.”

As for Ms Heard’s explanation, Dr Gilbert called it “highly unlikely”.

He said his professional opinion is that the wound was caused by a “sharp laceration”, based on images immediately after the injury. He added that a vodka bottle could have been the source of that laceration.

Dr Gilbert also refuted conclusions made by Ms Heard’s expert Dr Moore by saying it was “impossible” to tell the direction in which the injury occurred.

However, he agreed with Dr Moore’s conclusion that it’s impossible to “definitively” say what the injury was caused by.

Witnesses describe aftermath of fight

Mr Depp’s team called multiple witnesses who were in Australia with the couple at the time Mr Depp’s finger was severed, including Dr David Kipper, a concierge physician who was first to treat the wound.

Dr Kipper said he arrived at the home and found Mr Depp bleeding heavily but wasn’t sure how he’d been injured. The court heard that Mr Depp told emergency room staff he had cut himself with a knife.

On cross-examination, Ms Heard’s lawyers placed heavy importance on text messages between Dr Kipper and Mr Depp after the fight.

In one message, Mr Depp wrote: “I cut the top of my middle finger off… What should I do!?? Except, of course, go to a hospital…. I’m so embarrassed for jumping into anything with her… F**K THE WORLD!!! JD.”

Another text from about a week after the injury read: “Thank you for everything. I have chopped off my left middle finger as a reminder that I should never cut my finger off again!! I love you, brother. Johnny.”

Johnny Depp wrote messages in mix of ‘paint and blood’ after his finger of severed, a lawyer for Amber Heard said
Johnny Depp wrote messages in mix of ‘paint and blood’ after his finger of severed, a lawyer for Amber Heard said (Court documents)

Debbie Lloyd, a nurse brought in by Dr Kipper to help with Mr Depp’s treatment, also testified about her knowledge of how the injury occurred.

“I heard different stories from people,” Ms Lloyd said. “I had heard that Amber threw a bottle of vodka at him. I had heard that he slammed it with a phone.”

Ben King, Mr Depp’s house manager, testified that he was called to the home on a Sunday and found Dr Kipper “rummaging through a bin” in the kitchen.

“He said Mr Depp had sustained an injury to his finger and he was looking for the fingertip that he said had been severed,” Mr King added.

The house manager said he left Dr Kipper in the kitchen and went downstairs “to search”.

Mr King testified that he was the one to find the fingertip in the “bar area” of the house, adding that as he walked downstairs, he noticed that “a big chunk had been taken out of the marble staircase”.

He said he found broken glass, a “collapsed” ping pong table, and lots of cans surrounding the “bar area”.

Mr King said he found the fingertip “directly below the bar” and that another “big chunk” had been taken out of the marble top of the bar.

He noticed “kitchen paper” with “lots of blood around it” on the floor among which he found the fingertip. He added that he noticed “puddles of what smelled like alcohol” around the fingertip as well as broken glasses and bottles.

Mr King said the walls around the area had been damaged, as had the windows and a mirror behind the bar. He testified that a vodka bottle he found had been broken, adding that “nothing was really intact”.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press

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