- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 22, 2006

From combined dispatches

LONDON — The estranged wife of pop legend Paul McCartney has “tangible evidence” that he was physically aggressive toward her, a newspaper reported yesterday, as the British press continued its near-blanket coverage of the couple’s increasingly bitter split.

The claim comes three days after newspapers published leaked divorce papers detailing Heather Mills McCartney’s charges that the former Beatle beat her.

In the saga’s latest twist, the Daily Mail quoted an unnamed source close to Mrs. Mills McCartney saying that the evidence she had was “dynamite.”

“She reckons to have tangible evidence showing that Paul not only verbally attacked her, but also was physically aggressive.

“As well as charting much of the marriage breakdown on her digital camcorder and having witnesses who will testify to her claims, Heather has another killer piece of evidence in the form of an audio recording,” the source said.

Mrs. Mills McCartney, 38, also may have “some kind of video recording of the pair [fighting],” the source added.

Documents that emerged last week stated that in 2002 while Mr. McCartney was in Los Angeles, he “grabbed her by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table.”

The documents claimed that Mr. McCartney lunged at his wife with the broken stem of a wine glass, which cut her arm and made it bleed.

Mr. McCartney, 64, said in a statement through his attorneys that the only place for him to respond to the charges is in the divorce courts.

Observers of British society said that in an age when divorces are intended to be more “civilized,” the McCartneys are proof that when the stakes get high, everything — from matrimonial advice in the missus’s own “life-skills” book to a mutual agreement not to use the press — is abandoned.

When the McCartneys announced their separation in May, they blamed the pressures of “intolerable” press intrusion for the end of their four-year marriage. Mr. McCartney was married for 29 years to the former Linda Eastman, an American and a photographer who became part of his post-Beatles band, Wings. She died of cancer in April 1998.

The plans of the anonymous leaker of the McCartney court documents briefly stalled when Britain’s Press Association and Bloomberg News received the fax but decided the confidential papers were too hot to handle because of divorce law, defamation and privacy.

By early evening on Tuesday, though, the court papers had found their way to the Daily Mail. After frantic late-night phone calls to contacts and even later checks with in-house lawyers, the paper spread the charges over the first four pages of its final edition.

“Heather: Macca ‘beat me up’,” screamed the front-page headline, which began a four-day frenzy from rival newspapers for stories on the feuding couple.

Both sides last week denied all knowledge of who sent the fax.

The original document was 13 pages long, yet five pages apparently detailing some of Mrs. Mills McCartney’s reputedly unsavory behavior were missing from the dossier sent to the press.

As the once loving and affectionate McCartneys slug it out, both employed formidable teams of lawyers and press consultants, the London Sunday Telegraph reported.

Mrs. Mills McCartney’s publicist is Phil Hall, 51, who, during his days as editor of the News of the World, learned every trick in the book. But he insisted that neither his client nor her team was responsible for last week’s leak.

Her aides are equally adamant that they had nothing to do with an incident in August when a photographer was apparently tipped off that Mrs. Mills McCartney, who lost a leg after a motorbike accident in 1993, was stranded outside the couple’s North London home with her 2-year-old daughter after Mr. McCartney changed the locks.

At 27, Stuart Bell, Mr. McCartney’s publicist, does not have Mr. Hall’s experience. McCartney aides only said the leaked accusations against the former Beatle are false, but he will not participate in tit-for-tat claims aimed at harming his wife. She already has a reputation as a fantasist, the papers remind readers, for claiming to have been kidnapped and abused by a pedophile during her childhood.

Mr. McCartney’s aides also denied being behind the stories that his estranged wife used to be a soft-porn star, or that she worked as an escort girl. She vehemently denies the claims, and they supposedly came as a shock to her husband.

Mrs. Mills McCartney’s solicitor is Anthony Julius, 50, nicknamed “Anthony Genius.” He won Princess Diana a $32 million settlement from Prince Charles when their marriage ended a decade ago.

Mr. McCartney’s attorney is Fiona Shackleton, 50, who was Prince Charles’s divorce lawyer and whose combination of toughness and charm earned her the nickname of “the Steel Magnolia.”

The Mail and most other British newspapers devoted numerous column inches and photographs to the latest claims.

The Times reported that Mrs. Mills McCartney’s accusation in the leaked divorce papers that Mr. McCartney forced her to stay in bed in the morning was contradicted by a self-help book she wrote while the couple was still together.

In the book “Life Balance: The Essential Keys to a Lifetime of Well Being,” she wrote that “setting the alarm 30 minutes earlier each morning … allows me a little bit of personal space before the day begins,” the paper reported.

The book, published just months before the announcement of the breakup, reads: “Most of the disagreements in the world are due to misunderstandings or failing to see the other person’s point of view.”

Legal analysts warned that the apparent leak could leave the former model with a smaller slice of the beloved musician’s estimated $1.6 billion fortune.

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