Why DID Paul McCartney marry such a lying money grabber? Launching an unmissable series from a top biographer, a jaw-dropping insight into the greed and lies of Heather Mills
· He knew about Heather’s background as set out in her autobiography
· According to her, she had been sexually abused and left home at 13
· After that, she had worked at a funfair and slept in a cardboard box
· Why did he fall for a woman who even then was hard to take at face value?
· Philip Norman opens the first extract from Paul McCartney: The Biography
By PHILIP NORMAN FOR THE DAILY MAIL
23 April 2016
On October 17, 2006, fax machines at the Press Association office in London suddenly began to spew out nine devastating pages of intimate revelations about Sir Paul McCartney and his estranged second wife, Heather Mills.
The pages were from a document apparently compiled by Heather’s solicitors, Mishcon de Reya, and contained her response to McCartney’s brief, unspecific allegations in his petition for a quickie ‘no blame’ divorce.
Although she denied leaking them — the document was also faxed to the press office at London’s Royal Courts of Justice and to the UK offices of Bloomberg news agency — the revelations made it clear that as far as Heather was concerned there was plenty of blaming to do.
McCartney knew about Heather’s colourful background — as set down in her autobiography. According to her, she had been sexually abused and ran away from home at 13. After that, she had worked at a funfair and slept in a cardboard box among the tramps at Waterloo station, writes Philip Norman
Far from being a cosy family man, McCartney was a controlling and selfish domestic tyrant, the document alleged, who had even subjected Heather to physical violence.
That April, for instance, while she was recovering from an operation and still in a wheelchair, he’d poured ‘the balance of a bottle of red wine’ over her head and thrown the residue from his glass at her.
After that, she claimed, he’d grabbed her own glass so violently it snapped, and ‘lunged’ at her with the broken stem.
As she bled profusely, she claimed, he shouted at her to apologise for ‘winding him up’.
McCartney fans were stunned. None of this tallied with their image of the most laid-back and uxorious of the Beatles, who greeted the public with a cheery thumbs-up.
From McCartney, there was only a promise that he’d be countering these allegations ‘vigorously and appropriately’ in court. The torch had been lit for one of the most inflammatory divorce cases in history.
Despite having lost part of her left leg in an accident, 31-year-old Heather Mills radiated sexual confidence. As she liked to boast, every single man she met wanted to marry her within a week.
Certainly no one could have guessed she had a disability when she sprinted on stage at the Pride of Britain Awards in May 1999.
As she delivered an impassioned speech about the plight of amputees, she looked spectacular in a tight red top and white trousers that accentuated her curvaceous figure.
McCartney, who was waiting to deliver an award in honour of his late wife Linda, was captivated. Contrary to reports, however, he didn’t ask to be introduced to Heather — not then.
It was 13 months to the day since Linda had died of breast cancer, and he’d been finding it hard to adjust. Often he’d instinctively turn round to ask her something, then realise afresh that she wasn’t there.
He was also racked with guilt — to the point of having professional counselling — because he hadn’t told Linda what a short time she had left to live.
Heather, for her part, was unaware that she’d already made a powerful impression on the world’s most eligible bachelor. The day after the ceremony, she flew to Cambodia to make a documentary on landmines with British director Chris Terrill.
True to her habitual boast, Terrill was quickly captivated — though it took him ten days, not seven, to propose. Her reply was the single word: ‘When?’
On their return, Paul McCartney invited Heather to his offices and then asked her out to dinner. According to her, they also made a casual arrangement to meet up again in America.
Why did McCartney — normally so shrewd and cautious — fall for a woman who even then was hard to take at face value?
Heather went ahead with her wedding plans. But a week before her planned marriage in August, she told her fiance she was going out to meet her sister. Terrill never saw her again.
Instead, Heather revealed later, she and her sister Fiona jetted off to meet McCartney in Long Island. The affair began in earnest that autumn, with regular trysts at a cottage he owned in Rye near the Sussex coast and at a luxurious hotel suite in London.
By then, he knew about Heather’s colourful background — as set down in her autobiography.
According to her, she had been sexually abused and ran away from home at 13. After that, she had worked at a funfair and slept in a cardboard box among the tramps at Waterloo station.
At 18, she’d had a short-lived marriage to a businessman who encouraged her to take up modelling. But it was losing her leg — after being run down by a police motorcyclist — that marked a radical change in her fortunes.
Claiming to be a £200,000-a-year former catwalk model, she sold her life story to a tabloid and — with accompanying TV cameras — took 4,500 artificial limbs to Croatia for victims of landmines.
Soon, ever more impressive tales were swirling around: that her life was about to be turned into a Hollywood film; that she could look forward to becoming Secretary of State for Health; that she was in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Why did McCartney — normally so shrewd and cautious — fall for a woman who even then was hard to take at face value?
One theory was that after his long first marriage, Paul was in a particularly vulnerable state.
And there was another reason. When his old Liverpool friend Joe Flannery asked what had drawn him to Heather, he put it very simply: ‘I looked at her leg and went “A-ah.”’
Some warned him to be wary, but he was deaf to all advice.
Mary, the eldest of his children by Linda, feared he was falling victim to a ruthless opportunist. Only Stella, already a successful fashion designer, felt they should give the newcomer a chance.
By early 2000, newspapers were reporting that Heather’s modelling career had involved downmarket lingerie catalogues and topless glamour poses, and that she’d also worked as a ‘party girl’ for Middle Eastern businessmen.
Fearing that an exposé was imminent, Heather pre-empted it by telling Paul she was about to be falsely labelled ‘a high-class hooker’. According to her, he reassured her that this wouldn’t make the slightest difference to their relationship.
Unfortunately, people also began popping up to contradict the harrowing story she’d told in her autobiography. Her father, for instance, vehemently denied claims that he’d brutalised her.
And Alfie Karmal, to whom Heather had briefly been married, revealed: ‘She told me so many fibs that if she’d said it was raining, I would have checked.’
Heather, meanwhile, was revelling in her new status as an international celebrity. U.S. star presenter Barbara Walters flew to conduct an interview with her, in which she bracketed the former topless model with Princess Diana.
The broadcast began with a video showing Heather doing a sexy dance, at the end of which she kicked off her false leg.
In May 2001, McCartney loaned her £800,000 to buy a seafront property in Hove, then an additional £150,000 for renovations — all to be repaid in easy monthly instalments of £1,000.
Meanwhile, Heather was telling the Sunday Times that Tony Blair’s government wanted to give her a peerage; that all the main British political parties wanted her to stand as an MP; and that she had recently backed out of a meeting with former President Bill Clinton because she couldn’t be seen to endorse the Democratic Party. She also claimed that she was rated the No 1 public speaker in the UK.
Far from questioning any of this, McCartney proposed that July — dropping on one knee and placing a £15,000 ring on her finger.
Back in Britain, a newspaper investigation discovered that far from being a teenage runaway at 13, sleeping in a cardboard box, Heather had been attending school normally all along. McCartney and Mills are pictured at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 2003
Paul’s children loyally maintained a facade of being happy about the match, though it momentarily cracked when Heather accompanied Paul to the launch of Stella’s first collection for the Chloe fashion house.
As Paul arrived, he greeted the cameras with the peace sign that he and Linda always used to make together — and Heather followed suit.
To Stella, it seemed that her mother’s place was being blatantly usurped. One of her friends later said: ‘She was so angry, she told her dad there was no way she was having Heather to the after-show party — so they both had to miss it.’
Pointedly, Stella didn’t offer to design Heather’s wedding dress when her father remarried shortly before his 60th birthday.
A friend of Paul’s later recalled him confiding, rather wistfully, that all he wanted was someone to be there every night when he came offstage and say: ‘You were wonderful, darling.’
On that score alone, McCartney could hardly have made a worse choice of marriage partner. As he wound up the final part of his American tour in late 2002, it was Heather, not her husband, who kept grabbing the headlines.
When stories emerged about the hostility of McCartney’s children, she flatly denied them. Why, she said, she got on so ‘brilliantly’ with Stella that the designer had recently put out a press release saying so. Yet no such press release had ever been issued.
McCartney had now given Heather an annual allowance of £360,000, a credit card on his account and jewellery worth £264,000.
On top of that, he altered his will in her favour and allowed her annual lump sums of £250,000 to donate to charity.
By February 2003, she was pregnant with their daughter, Beatrice, and accompanying him on a concert tour in Russia.
Members of his band were amazed to see McCartney paying close attention when Heather gave him critical notes on his performance.
Back in Britain, a newspaper investigation discovered that far from being a teenage runaway at 13, sleeping in a cardboard box, Heather had been attending school normally all along.
Despite having lost part of her left leg in an accident, 31-year-old Heather Mills radiated sexual confidence. As she liked to boast, every single man she met wanted to marry her within a week
As questions mounted, she still seemed immune: she was even invited to appear alongside heavyweight politicians on BBC1’s prestigious Question Time.
And McCartney not only gave her an extra £500,000 to buy an office — a luxurious riverside flat in West London — but took out a mortgage to buy her sister and cousin properties worth £614,000.
In April 2006, Heather needed ‘revision surgery’ on the stump of her left leg. Her sudden absence from McCartney’s side in public provoked rumours that the marriage was in trouble.
When she reappeared, however, she laughed and said: ‘Paul and I are together 100 per cent.’ A week later, the McCartneys announced that they were separating. They had been married for just four years.
There appeared to be no hard feelings: they issued a statement claiming that ‘our parting is an amicable one and both of us still care about each other very much’.
Shortly afterwards, the Sun published pictures from a 1988 German sex manual, The Joys Of Love, showing an oil-slicked Heather having simulated intercourse with a man. Online, there were explicit photos that left nothing to the imagination.
The News of the World followed this up with ‘Heather the £5K Hooker’, alleging that she had been a prostitute in the Eighties. Heather angrily declared that she would be suing — but never did.
Soon she was dominating headlines again with details from the mysteriously leaked fax. McCartney, she alleged, had continued to ‘use illegal drugs’ and ‘consume alcohol to excess’ after their marriage.
The worst allegations painted him as a wife-beater.
In late 2002, only four months after their wedding, he had apparently grabbed her by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table. Another time, he allegedly ‘became very angry, yelled at her, grabbed her neck and began choking her’.
According to the document, he’d also tried to stop her breast-feeding Beatrice, apparently telling Heather: ‘They are my breasts’ and, ‘I don’t want a mouthful of breast milk.’
The looming divorce was soon being compared to that of Prince Charles and Diana, particularly as Heather had often seemed to cast herself in the princess’s image.
Even the opposing solicitors were the same: McCartney would be represented by Fiona Shackleton, who had acted for Charles; and Heather by Anthony Julius, who had secured Diana’s £17 million settlement.
There seemed every chance that Heather would also become a stupendously rich divorcee, as she had never signed a pre-nuptial contract. Boldly, she asked for £50 million, rejecting McCartney’s offer of around £20 million.
That October, she launched a bizarre public attack on Stella McCartney, with whom, she said, she had ‘tried and tried’ to form a good relationship.
‘Every week [Stella] tried to break up our marriage,’ she went on. ‘She was so jealous. She wasn’t interested in her dad’s happiness. I can’t protect her any longer. She’s done some evil, evil things.’
The truth, she raged, was that Stella was afraid the divorce would eat into her inheritance, and that her father’s new wife would get ‘all the planes and the diamonds’.
Why was she so down on Stella? To Heather’s chagrin, her stepdaughter had given her a discount of only 10 per cent on her designer clothes. She had also refused to provide goody-bags for one of Heather’s charity fundraisers.
The divorce of the decade was now descending inexorably into a farce.
When the hearing began on February 11, 2008, the first surprise was that Heather had sacked her lawyer for failing to negotiate the settlement she wanted, and would be representing herself.
Her claim against McCartney had now swelled to around £125 million, nearly three times as much as the largest divorce settlement in British legal history.
So how did that break down? Well, ‘reasonable needs’ for herself and her daughter Beatrice, she estimated, would add up to £3.25 million a year.
This included £499,000 for holidays, £125,000 for clothes, £30,000 for ‘equestrian activities’ (although she no longer rode), £39,000 for wine (she didn’t drink), £43,000 for a driver, £627,000 for charitable donations, £73,000 for business staff and £39,000 for helicopter flights. In addition, she wanted security costing £542,000 annually.
Paul McCartney: The Biography, by Philip Norman, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25. © Philip Norman 2016. To buy a copy for £20, visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640. Offer until April 30, p&p free on orders over £12. McCartney and Mills are pictured here shortly after their engagement in 2001
As well as her two existing homes in Hove and Peans Wood, East Sussex, she further laid claim to McCartney’s houses in Long Island and Beverly Hills and asked for between £8 million and £12 million to buy a London home, £3 million to buy one in New York and between £500,000 and £750,000 to buy an office in Brighton, plus title to the houses Paul had already provided for her sister and cousin.
In all, that would give her seven fully staffed properties with full-time housekeepers, costing £645,000 annually.
She also wanted the court to come up with a ‘significant’ figure to compensate her for his allegedly abusive conduct, her loss of earnings during their marriage and her ‘contributions’ to McCartney’s career.
Wearing a pinstriped trouser-suit and carrying a large folder labelled ‘Fan Mail’, Heather entered the witness box.
Her own work had made her almost McCartney’s equal as a celebrity, she proclaimed. Furthermore, she had been independently wealthy before they met, with between £2 million and £3 million in the bank — but the marriage had all but put paid to her career.
Bank statements, of course, might have proved this. But she couldn’t produce any, claiming that as much as 90 per cent of her vast earnings had gone directly to charity. Yet there were no effusive letters of gratitude to prove this, either.
In November 2005, the court was told, she had emailed McCartney’s financial director, Paul Winn, about the West London flat the Beatle had bought her, asking for £480,000 to be paid into her account ‘to clear the amount outstanding on the mortgage’.
Winn refused to do so without proof that the mortgage existed. And, now, under cross-examination, Heather had to admit there had never been a mortgage; she must have got into a muddle, she said.
It was, said McCartney’s lawyer, nothing but ‘a fraudulent attempt’ to extract money.
At the end of the hearing, Mr Justice Bennett praised Sir Paul for expressing himself ‘moderately, though at times with justifiable irritation’.
The same could not be said of Heather. ‘Much of her evidence... was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid,’ said the judge. ‘Overall, she was a less than impressive witness.’
Her claim that she had been worth up to £3 million when she met McCartney was ‘wholly exaggerated’. In fact, her 1999 tax return revealed that she had earned a total of £48,000.
And far from ‘losing business opportunities’ after meeting him, her income had substantially increased.
The judge’s harshest words concerned her email requesting £480,000 to ‘clear the mortgage’ on an unmortgaged flat. Heather’s explanation, he said, had ‘a hollow ring’ and the episode was ‘distinctly distasteful’ and damaging to her credibility.
In the end, he awarded her £16.5 million. Taking her two existing homes into account, she would have assets of around £23.4 million — or more than £700 for every hour that she had spent with McCartney.
As proceedings ended, a furious Heather dramatically seized one of the courtroom’s water jugs and tipped it over the head of McCartney’s lawyer Fiona Shackleton.
Outside the court, she claimed to all and sundry that the judge’s mind had been made up in advance and Shackleton had handled the case ‘in the worst manner you could ever imagine’.
A year later, after Heather had receded to the margins of celebrity, McCartney was asked if the marriage had been the worst mistake of his life.
It would have to be ‘a prime contender’, he replied, ‘but I tend to look at the positive side, which is that I got a beautiful daughter out of it.’
But Heather, who had now taken up competitive skiing, had to have the last word.
Last year, she popped up on Irish television to accuse Paul McCartney of struggling to stay relevant — because he wasn’t nearly as famous as she was.
‘Most of the time,’ she said, ‘I have people coming up to me in the street and going “Oh my God, you’re a ski racer” or “You help the animals.” Half of them don’t even know who he is.’
Paul McCartney: The Biography, by Philip Norman, is published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £25. © Philip Norman 2016. To buy a copy for £20, visit mailbookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640. Offer until April 30, p&p free on orders over £12.
THE WEDDING THAT ALMOST WASN'T
Even before they wed, it was clear the marriage would be a turbulent one.
During their engagement, Heather accompanied McCartney on a U.S. tour. One of his concerts was in Florida, where the couple checked into Miami’s Turnberry Isle hotel.
A security guard patrolling the gardens below their suite later claimed to have heard a fierce argument in which Paul shouted: ‘I don’t want to marry you! The wedding’s off! We’ll cancel it!’ He then appeared on the balcony and threw Heather’s engagement ring over the rail.
After a lengthy search of the garden by staff on all fours — in pouring rain — the ring was found under a bush. Paul, by then back in Britain, bought a first-class air ticket for the hotel manager to deliver it, and sent £1,500 to the finder.
Little credence was given to Heather’s claim that they had merely been ‘playing catch’ with the ring.