The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Divorce din heats up

London, Oct. 19: After yesterday’s shocking allegations from Lady Heather McCartney in her divorce papers that her husband Sir Paul McCartney was physically abusive to her, got drunk and took drugs, it was today the turn of the former Beatle to hit back.

His “friends” dismissed Heather’s account as that of a “fantasist” who was out to try and extract half of Paul’s £825 million fortune. It has been said that he offered “only” £30 million.

This latest high profile divorce illustrates how the media, instead of simply reporting what is going on, has become an important player in the drama, has been used by both sides and has also not been above stirring the witch’s brew itself.

Many in Britain are starting to see the McCartney vs McCartney proceedings as a rerun of the divorce battle of 1996 between Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

One reason for this is that Paul has hired the lawyer — Fiona Shackleton, 50, from the firm of Payne Hicks Beach — who acted for Prince Charles. She has been nicknamed the “Steel Magnolia”.

Heather has responded by picking the lawyer who acted for Princess Diana — Anthony Julius, also 50, from the firm of Mishcon de Reya. His ability to secure large settlements for his clients — he got a £17 million settlement for Diana — has earned him the nickname “Anthony Genius”.

The McCartney vs McCartney battle offers an insight into how divorce proceedings in modern Britain are fought out through the media, notably through newspapers with a large circulation, long before the cases come to court.

This happened with Charles and Diana, with rival supporters briefing the press against the other side. Although the war between Paul and his estranged wife has become almost the biggest story in Britain, the media are being briefed about other marriages in trouble.

An example is the marriage between the Cambridge physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, 64, author of the best-selling book A Brief History of Time, and his second wife, Elaine, 55. There have been reports that she has been abusive to her wheelchair-bound husband, who is now said to have lodged a divorce petition.

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