Macca’s Trial By Tabloid

The split between ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and ex-model Heather Mills is shaping up to be one of the most acrimonious – if not costliest – celebrity divorces in decades, with the publication by London’s Daily Mail of purported legal filings detailing Mills’ charges against Macca of violence, drug use, heavy drinking and general abuse.

The documents were reportedly leaked to the U.K.’s Press Association but appeared in the tabloid, which claimed the story as a front page “exclusive.” Once published, other more respectable British media jumped on the bandwagon.

The BBC, ITV, Sky News and papers including Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent and The Guardian were soon running detailed accounts of the leaked documents’ contents.

According to a report in The Guardian, copies of documents – apparently drawn up by Mills’ attorney – were received by anonymous fax at the central London offices of the Press Association late on in the afternoon of October 17th.

Sir Paul and his estranged wife have neither confirmed the authenticity of the documents nor denounced them as fakes, but he was quick to put out a statement saying he’d defend the allegations “vigorously and appropriately.” At stake is an estimated $2 billion fortune McCartney has amassed including his share of The Beatles’ earnings and that of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership.

Ironically, the leaked papers may weaken Mills’ financial position as the widespread publication of such graphic and lurid details means there’s no longer much point in McCartney agreeing to pay more in exchange for her signing a confidentiality agreement and promising not to talk about their marriage.

The late Diana, Princess of Wales, who used the same divorce lawyer hired by Lady McCartney, secured a much larger than expected £17 million payout after agreeing to never discuss her marriage to Prince Charles.

The McCartneys separated in May, blaming “media intrusion” for putting the marriage under intolerable pressure. Within weeks, U.K. tabs were blaring stories claiming Mills had worked as a high-end prostitute and done soft-core porn films. At the end of July, Sir Paul filed for divorce on the grounds of “unreasonable behavior.”

– John Gammon