Former Beatle McCartney, Wife Separate

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, May 17, 2006; 11:24 AM

LONDON, May 17 -- Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his second wife, Heather Mills, announced Wednesday that they were separating after four years of marriage.

"Having tried exceptionally hard to make our relationship work given the daily pressures surrounding us, it is with sadness that we have decided to go our separate ways," the couple said in a joint statement released through their publicists. "Our parting is amicable and both of us still care about each other very much but have found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with constant intrusion into our private lives."

McCartney, 63, and Mills, 38, asked to be "given some space" to deal with the separation and protect their daughter, Beatrice, who was born in October 2003.

Mills has been the source of constant gossip and sniping in the media here since she married the world's most famous left-handed bass player in a lavish ceremony in Ireland in June 2002. Critics accused her of being jealous and domineering and asserting too much influence over her husband.

McCartney was so angered by the criticism that he posted a defense of his wife on her Web site last year. He said Mills had been depicted as "a gold-digger, wicked stepmother and publicity seeker.''

"It hurts me to see her wounded by these scurrilous reports and not have anyone to put the record straight,'' he said.

McCartney's worth was recently estimated by the Sunday Times at nearly $1.5 billion, including more than $85 million in earnings last year alone from album sales and proceeds from a North American tour. Mills has said in the past that McCartney turned down her offer to sign a prenuptial agreement.

His first marriage, to the former Linda Eastman, ended upon her death in 1998. McCartney has said they spent virtually every night together in 29 years of marriage. They had three children, including the fashion designer Stella McCartney, and a step-daughter from Linda McCartney's first marriage.

The former Beatle met Mills in 1999 through her work with the Heather Mills Health Trust, which recycles prosthetic limbs and campaigns against land mines. Mills, a former model, lost a leg after being hit by a police motorcycle as she crossed a road in 1993.

McCartney, who continues to tour the globe as one of the world's best-known musical icons, has campaigned with Mills for various causes, including an appearance in Canada in March to protest the slaughter of seal pups.

But rumors of discord between them have filled the British media since shortly before their wedding, when Mills reportedly threw her engagement ring out the window of a Florida hotel during one argument.

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