Macca's meltdown: The inside story of the marriage that cost Sir Paul £24m and almost destroyed him
By HOWARD SOUNES
Last updated at 1:07 AM on 14th August 2010
Last updated at 1:07 AM on 14th August 2010
She could hardly fail to catch his eye.
In a translucent red top that revealed her large breasts, she was what Paul McCartney might once have termed ‘a right little raver’.
He watched spellbound as Heather Mills, with a flirtatious toss of her thick blonde hair, strode confidently across the stage of a London awards ceremony in May 1999 to introduce a woman who’d shown fortitude in coping with the loss of her limbs.
Bitter end: Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills seemed in love, but their relationship disintegrated when her raunchy past was exposed
It wasn’t immediately obvious that Ms Mills was also wearing a prosthetic leg.
‘Who’s that?’ asked Sir Paul, who was waiting to deliver an award himself.
He was told that the woman who had made such a strong impression on him was a 31-year-old model who’d lost her leg in a road accident and now raised money for her charity.
Days later, Heather found a message on her answer machine: ‘It’s Paul McCartney here. I’d like to talk to you about the charity work.’
They met at his London office, where Paul presented the Heather Mills Trust — which she hadn’t yet registered with the Charity Commission — with a cheque for £150,000.
As she left that summer day, Heather noticed Sir Paul was admiring her backside. He hadn’t looked with lust at a woman since his wife’s death from breast cancer just over a year before.
Back then, he’d been in a very sorry condition, wandering about his estate and talking constantly about Linda.
‘Paul was just haggard. I mean, he sat there like an old man, lost,’ says Linda’s friend, the TV writer Carla Lane.
Now, however, he told himself that Linda wouldn’t mind about his feelings for Heather. He convinced himself that his dead wife was sending him messages via the wildlife on their Sussex farm.
‘There were strange metaphysical occurrences that seemed to mean something. Animal noises. Bird noises.
‘You’d ask yourself a question under the stars and, like, there’d be like an owl in the valley going whoo-whoo-whoo,’ he revealed later.
In short, he was set on dating Heather Mills — a decision that would one day cost him dear.
Like Paul, she came from a northern working-class family, but her background was troubled.
'The more you met (Heather), the more you knew she was a nutter'
At 14, she claimed in her autobiography, she’d run away from home. She’d started sleeping rough and mixing with drug addicts, rent boys and prostitutes.
Then she got a Saturday job with a jeweller, from whom she stole — resulting in a probationary sentence for theft. Next, Heather strayed into the fringes of the sex industry, finding employment at around the age of 16 as a waitress in a Soho hostess club.
A failed marriage and a career in glamour modelling had followed. The exact details are slightly mysterious.
Her ex-husband Alfie Karmal says: ‘It was difficult to believe anything she said, as I caught her out lying to me so often.’
Still, whatever her short-comings, she was able to yank Sir Paul McCartney out of his grief. Quickly disposing of her fiance Chris Terrill (to whom she’d got engaged after a ten-day romance), she joined the Beatle for his annual vacation on Long Island in America.
By the time they returned to the UK, they were inseparable. Paul was so happy, she noted, that he was literally dancing down the street, like his hero Fred Astaire. For Halloween, he arranged a tryst with Heather in a London hotel, filling their suite with lanterns.
And for New Year’s Eve, they went to his house on Merseyside where Heather met the rellies, as Paul called his Liverpool family.
The rellies, however, looked upon her askance. ‘I went in the kitchen for some reason. Seated at a table, in white faux fur and a white Cossack fake fur hat, is this very glamorous-looking blonde,’ recalls Paul’s cousin Mike Robbins.
Happier times: Sir Paul and Heather Mills announce their engagement in 2002
He extended his hand, but the blonde didn’t shake it and seemed to want to stay in the kitchen rather than join everyone else in the living room. Mike assumed she was ‘one of Paul’s brief bits of crumpet’. But, he adds, ‘the more you met her, the more you knew she was a nutter’.
Clearly, Paul didn’t think so. Nor did he seem bothered by the stories now emerging that suggested Heather had been a party girl who kept company with rich Arabs, including the Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi. Why did Paul invest such trust in a self- publicising minor celebrity with a dubious past?
Mike Robbins thinks he knows the answer: sex. Paul had been in a monogamous relationship for almost 30 years and then along came a busty blonde who may have had a certain expertise in the bedroom.
‘I’m being crude now, but he was c**k happy. He confused sex with love,’ says Mike. ‘He couldn’t tell the difference.’
Another way to look at Paul’s relationship with Heather is to consider that, like John Lennon, he’d spent his adult life being venerated by almost everybody he met.
Indeed, both Beatles had become so famous, so rich and so powerful that they were inevitably slightly monstrous.
And they were only comfortable with women who weren’t overawed by their fame.
When Heather admired a beach house near Hove in Sussex, Paul lent her £800,000 to buy it. By then, nearing 60, he also delighted in arranging romantic surprises — so he flew with her to India for her 33rd birthday and took her shopping in Manhattan on Valentine’s Day.
'You know when a woman loves a man she’s with and there was no love there. Everyone could see it'
Not everyone believed she was equally smitten. Anthony Smith, president of Magdalen College, Oxford, who had them both to stay several times while Paul was writing a choral work for the college, says: ‘You know when a woman loves a man she’s with and there was no love there. Everyone could see it. Everyone around them.
‘You could just see it, you could feel it, and he didn’t, or he’d convinced himself that because he was a good man — which he is, an extremely morally motivated person in all things, I think — he felt he ought to love her. That’s my theory.’
Among Sir Paul’s friends and associates, the consensus was that Heather was trouble. The musician Eric Stewart of 10CC was so concerned about his old friend that he wrote a letter to Paul, warning him about Heather.
He didn’t get a reply, nor could he get through to Paul on the phone. ‘It was like he was trying to sweep out anybody who knew him and Linda together.’
When Paul introduced Heather Mills to Tony Bramwell, another old friend, the former Beatles employee recognised Heather as a girl who used to hang around the London club scene. ‘Heather looked at me in horror,’ Bramwell says, ‘knowing I’d been in the clubs when she was slapping around looking for a rich man.’
Unwilling to spend time in his company, she announced: ‘There’s nobody interesting here — I’m going shopping.’ Paul followed her meekly.
Bramwell concluded that Heather was every bit as horrible as he’d always found Yoko Ono to be.
Glamour model: Heather's raunchy past came back to haunt her after she married Sir Paul
That summer of 2001, Paul dropped down on his knee at a hotel in the Lake District, gave his girlfriend a sapphire and diamond ring and asked her to marry him.
When she said yes, he burst into tears. In the new year, he bought her more jewellery, gave her a joint Coutts credit card and advanced her £150,000 to decorate her new house near Hove, writing off the original £800,000 home loan as a gift.
He then embarked on a spring tour of North America, with Heather in tow. Photographs suggest they were the image of happiness at this time, but away from the cameras there were ugly scenes.
In mid-May, when the tour reached Florida, Paul and Heather had checked into the Turnberry Isle Resort and Club in Miami. In the early hours, hotel guests awoke to hear Paul shouting: ‘I don’t want to marry you. The wedding’s off!’
Heather’s engagement ring was then apparently flung from their hotel window. The next day, hotel staff hired metal detectors to find it.
However, the relationship was patched up in time for a lavish 2002 wedding in Ireland.
There was no sign of Paul’s son James or his adoptive daughter Heather, both of whom were understood to be against Dad’s second marriage. Most of the other rellies turned up, but their enjoyment of the big day was tempered by suspicions about the bride.
‘By then the family knew — my family are not dopey — this was a wrong’un,’ says Mike Robbins.
Afterwards, Paul resumed his North American tour and Heather did a TV interview with broadcaster Barbara Walters.
‘I am married to the most famous person in the world and that is very unfortunate for me,’ said the new Lady McCartney, making it clear she didn’t like her charity work being overshadowed.
Indeed, she seemed to find her husband generally annoying. ‘This is a man who has had his own way his entire life,’ she told Walters.
Volatile: Despite putting on a happy appearance, the couple's marriage was marred by rows
‘When you become famous at 19, it is sometimes hard to listen to other people’s opinions.’
The interview allegedly led to a spectacular argument with Paul — one of a series that would eventually lead them to the divorce courts.
Heather complained to him that Walters had raised some of the less flattering stories about her early life. But he apparently dismissed her concerns, saying she was in a mood.
Heather decided he was drunk. According to her account in the divorce documents: ‘[Paul] grabbed [Heather] by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table. He then went outside and in his drunken state he fell down a hill, cutting his arm.’
Still, Heather’s experience didn’t put her off chat shows: she appeared repeatedly on Larry King Live in the months to come, facing increasingly tough questions about her past.
That December, Paul gave her a cash gift of £250,000 — which she used to help buy a £450,000 flat in Hammersmith, West London — then set up a £360,000-a-year allowance for her. Meanwhile, more people were starting to talk.
A childhood girlfriend disputed details in Heather’s memoirs about the two of them being held prisoner by a paedophile. She sued Heather and won compensation.
Charles Stapley, effectively Heather’s stepfather, likewise disputed Heather’s story of running away from home at 14.
‘She did go and sleep in the back of a truck with a chap who worked on the dodgems, but that was just at weekends,’ he said, describing Heather as a ‘damaged personality’.
The Clapham jeweller who’d employed Heather as a teenager alleged that she stole far more than she’d admitted — including gold chains worth £25,000. ‘She virtually plundered the shop,’ he said.
Most damaging was the testimony of two women associates of Adnan Khashoggi, who spoke of Heather enjoying the high life with rich Arabs in London at a time she’d claimed to be working as a swimsuit model in Paris.
Again, Heather was upset, but Paul seemed indifferent.
Sir Paul fell for Heather after losing his first wife Linda to cancer
‘An argument ensued in the bathroom during which [Paul] became angry and pushed [Heather] into the bath,’ according to the divorce papers.
When Paul’s tour moved on to Hamburg in Germany, he introduced Heather to his old friends Horst Fascher and Astrid Kirchherr, whom he had met there when touring in the early Sixties. Astrid didn’t warm to her.
She reflects: ‘He was so protected by Linda, and surrounded with her love and care, that he was like an unborn baby towards women and Heather could just roll him around her fingers . . . She turned out to be a bitch.’
Few people were able to be candid to Paul’s face, of course. His children had tried to tell him what they thought of Heather, but he didn’t want to know.
In the summer of 2003, Paul took Heather to his U.S. holiday home in Long Island. Another big row allegedly ensued, this time over his pot-smoking.
As her divorce petition states: ‘[Heather] asked [Sir Paul] if he had been smoking marijuana. He became very angry, yelled at her, grabbed her neck and started choking her.’
Despite apparently being at each other’s throats, Heather fell pregnant a few months later.
Back on Paul’s Sussex estate, the month before she gave birth, they allegedly had another row which resulted in broken crockery, glasses and lamps. A mark on the wall also indicated that Heather had thrown a bottle of ketchup at her 61-year-old husband.
After their baby Beatrice was born in October 2003, Paul renewed his efforts to make the marriage work. But more problems arose because Heather wanted to establish herself as a media personality in the U.S., while he wanted them to live as a family in the UK.
Few people were able to be candid to Paul’s face, of course. His children had tried to tell him what they thought of Heather, but he didn’t want to know
Heather had other complaints.
Paul, she claimed, didn’t want her to breastfeed Beatrice, saying ‘they are my breasts’ and ‘I don’t want a mouthful of breast milk’.
She also resented having to cook for him every night, as his mum and Linda had done. Plus she liked to get up early, but he slept late, and wanted her beside him when he woke.
Another bone of contention was Paul’s Manhattan townhouse, which was partly used by his music publishing business. Heather made it clear she had her eye on space downstairs as a private office, but he refused to let her have it.
When he ‘reluctantly agreed to provide her with alternative office space in the city’, according to the divorce papers, Heather told Paul that the office, a 20-minute walk away, was too small and too far away.
She refused to use it and he called her an ‘ungrateful bitch’. Some may think he had a point. In 2005 alone, he’d given his wife jewellery worth £264,000.
Yet like Oliver Twist, Heather always wanted more. In November, she emailed Paul Winn, Paul’s accountant, asking him to pay £480,000 into her NatWest bank account so she could clear a mortgage for that amount on her Hammersmith flat.
She asked for the money twice, but didn’t receive it — for the very good reason there was no mortgage on the flat (a situation later characterised in court as verging on the fraudulent).
Just before the final break-up, Heather tried again to extract cash from Winn to clear what she now claimed were four loans on the Hammersmith property, totalling £450,000.
Seven weeks after the accountant had knocked back this latest request, on April 25, 2006, the couple allegedly had an explosive argument which ended with Sir Paul pouring the remainder of a bottle of red wine over Heather.
According to the divorce papers: ‘[Sir Paul] then reached to grab [Heather’s] wine glass and broke the bowl of the glass from the stem.
‘He then lunged at [her] with the broken, sharp stem of the wine glass, which cut and pierced [her] arm just below the elbow and it began to bleed profusely. He proceeded to manhandle [her] . . . screaming at her to apologise for “winding him up”.’ (Paul strenuously denies these allegations.)
Days later, after less than four years of married life, they separated.
Not long afterwards, a 1988 German sex manual emerged in which Heather was pictured nude and semi-nude, simulating sex acts with an equally bare male model.
Then even more explicit pictures were uncovered, showing her with her legs splayed.
Such was the sorry state of Paul’s private life as he reached 64 — immortalised in his song When I’m 64, in which he’d imagined an uxorious old age, scrimping and saving to make ends meet.
Media target: Heather, pictured speaking outside court after her divorce hearing, compared herself to Princess Diana
In fact, he had a net wealth of approximately £387 million, making him one of the richest entertainers in the world, but a marriage that had crashed and burned.
For his divorce case, he adopted a policy of dignified silence, while his estranged wife compared herself to Princess Diana and wailed: ‘I’ve had worse press than a paedophile or a murderer and I’ve done nothing but charity for 20 years.’
Her popularity plummeted, reaching its nadir when TV presenter Jonathan Ross described Heather as such a ‘f***ing liar [I] wouldn’t be surprised if we found out she’s actually got two legs’.
Having parted company with her lawyers, she decided to represent herself, asking the judge for a £125 million settlement.
But Mr Justice Bennett disagreed, ruling that Paul should pay her £16.5 million in cash and other assets, meaning that she left the marriage with a total of £24.3million.
Despite winning this vast sum, Heather was furious. In the closing moments of the case, she tipped a jug of water over the head of Paul’s lawyer, Fiona Shackleton.
Her woes multiplied when Mr Justice Bennett’s judgment was made public against her wishes.
‘I am driven to the conclusion,’ he wrote, ‘that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid.’
He noted that she’d made ‘untrue and distorted allegations’ against Paul — and ordered that neither of them should disclose any further details to the media.
This was a severe blow to Heather. Unable to say anything of substance about her famous ex-husband, and with plenty of money to spend, she soon faded into semi-obscurity. And in the two years since the divorce, she has employed a succession of public relations consultants, who have found themselves hard-pressed to improve her image.
Of course, any woman who married Paul was always going to have a near impossible task: living up to his first wife, Linda, whose image as the ultimate earth mother was only enhanced by her untimely death from breast cancer in 1998.
However, as we will see on Monday, when Linda first came into Paul’s life she was far removed from the maternal vegetarian campaigner who was to become almost as famous as her husband.
Far from it. She was a single mother who made a living photographing rock stars who she then often slept with — one friend dubbed her a ‘groping groupie’.
And long before she met any of the Beatles, she decided she liked the look of the baby-faced one. From then on, Paul McCartney was her number one target.
Extracted from Fab: An Intimate Life Of Sir Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes, published by HarperCollins on August 25 at £20. © Howard Sounes 2010. To buy a copy at £18 (p&p free), call 0845 155 0720.
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