Money Can't Buy Her Silence

By Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 18, 2008

LONDON, March 17 -- The nasty divorce battle between Paul McCartney and former model Heather Mills ended in typically rancorous fashion Monday, with a $48.6 million court-ordered settlement and a rambling tirade by Mills on the courthouse steps.

Facing reporters, Mills, 40, launched into an 11-minute series of attacks against McCartney, 65, his lawyer, the judge and the British legal system.

Even though it was far closer to the $31.6 million McCartney had offered than the $250 million she had sought, Mills initially said she was "very, very pleased" with the settlement. (The BBC calculated it as about $34,000 for every day of her four-year marriage to the former Beatle.)

But she complained about that, too. She said the settlement -- plus an additional $70,000 a year to support the couple's 4-year-old daughter, Beatrice -- would require the girl to "travel B class when her father travels A class."

The McCartney-Mills divorce has been a long-running soap opera in Britain, where the vast majority of the population has taken the side of a man who has been a cultural icon here since he emerged from working-class Liverpool in the 1950s.

It has been "Macca," the singer's nickname, vs. "Mucca," the unflattering name dumped on Mills by Britain's tabloid press. It didn't help Mills -- but surely helped the tabloids -- when steamy nude photos of her surfaced after the pair separated. The pictures were from a German "sex manual" published in 1988.

Mills has complained that the tabloid press treats her "worse than a murderer." One paper immediately claimed it had run an instant poll showing that 90 percent of Britons believed Mills got too much money in the settlement.

McCartney, whose first wife, Linda McCartney, died of breast cancer in 1998, declined to comment on the case on Monday.

Mills has been largely out of the public eye for months except for her appearance last year on the American TV show "Dancing With the Stars." But after court Monday, she stood before the cameras and let rip with a stream-of-consciousness monologue that was sometimes hard to follow.

She trashed McCartney's lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, who represented Prince Charles in his divorce from Princess Diana. She said Shackleton "has called me many, many names."

She said the name-calling came "before even meeting me when I was in a wheelchair." Mills's left leg was amputated below the knee after a 1993 motorcycle accident. It was unclear how exactly that factored into her treatment by Shackleton.

She said the trial judge, Hugh Bennett, had calculated McCartney's net worth at about $800 million dollars, when "everybody knows" it is actually twice that much. She also mocked the judge's conclusion that she and McCartney never lived together until their June 2002 wedding; she said they had been living together since March 2000.

"A lot of strange things have been going on behind the scenes; I obviously had all the evidence to prove that we were cohabitating," she said.

The British legal system, she said, is a "club" that is stacked against anyone who tries to represent themselves as a "litigant in person."

"These people are in a club, they want to stay together and they don't want to see a litigant in person do well," she said, and she urged people to try to settle divorce disputes out of court. But if they can't, she said, people should employ the "power of one" and try to represent themselves.

"It's not easy," she said, "but just make sure you do all your research; save yourself a fortune."

But Mills saved her most pointed shots for McCartney, even while saying their settlement had been an "amicable parting." She said he had locked her out of "every home" and had refused her access to joint bank accounts.

"I won't go into all the horrific details of what has happened, because I'm just glad it's over," she said.

Mills was asked if she had thought about leaving the country now. "I can't leave England," she said. "I've always wanted to keep my daughter near her father, and believe me, if I tried to go, he'd have an injunction on me in a second."

As she wound down her appearance in front of the cameras, Mills said she hoped the press would leave her alone now. "At least," she said, "you can start getting some really good headlines on the front pages, of important issues and matters, instead of our boring divorce."

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