Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

An unreliable witness: Heather's fantasy world

She fought hard to prevent its publication – but yesterday the full judgment in the former Lady McCartney's divorce case was published by the Family Court. And the picture it paints of her is far from flattering

Heather Mills leaves court after securing a £24.3m divorce settlement from Sir Paul McCartney

When Heather Mills stood on the steps of the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday afternoon and explained why she intended to appeal against the publication of the judgment on her bitter and acrimonious divorce from Sir Paul McCartney, she was adamant that her reasons were purely unselfish.

The former model had just been awarded a settlement of £24.3m in her split with the former Beatle, less than a fifth of the £125m she had initially demanded, but the equivalent, nonetheless, of about £17,000 for every day she spent married to SirPaul, 65, and a figure she said she was "very, very pleased" with.



What made her unhappy, she claimed, was that the judgment (which Ms Mills had seen that morning) contained private details of her and her estranged husband's four-year-old daughter, Beatrice. It was for her child's safety, she insisted, that she wanted those details kept private.



Yesterday, as Ms Mills, 40, failed in her attempt, that fiercely delivered rhetoric was exposed as a sham. The judgment– all 58 pages of it, written meticulously in Mr Justice Bennett's carefully crafted prose – revealed little new about Beatrice. But it did say a lot about her mother.



In a damning indictment of Ms Mills' character, career and reliability as a witness, the judgment of the man who presided over the couple's bitter two-month divorce proceedings offered an astonishing insight into the world of the McCartneys. For a woman who has often tried to present herself as a victim in a conspiracy to rob her of her wealth and dignity, it will have made uncomfortable reading.



Mr Justice Bennett, in charge of perhaps the most hotly followed and bitterly contested celebrity divorce since the split of the late Diana, Princess of Wales from the Prince of Wales, criticised virtually every aspect of Ms Mills' character, describing the charity campaigner as "her own worst enemy", saying that her behaviour during proceedings was "distasteful" and that the evidence she gave to the court had been "not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid".



In contrast the judge saw her husband as the epitome of a "balanced" and "honest" witness. "He expressed himself moderately, though at times with justifiable irritation. He was consistent, accurate and honest," Mr Justice Bennett said.



Although the judgment initially appeared to be complimentary to Ms Mills, praising her for her "strong-willed and determined personality" and describing her as a "kindly person" who was "devoted to her charitable causes," it was not long before the compliments died out. What followed was a stinging critique of almost all of the evidence the former model gave to the family court during the divorce proceedings behind closed doors in Court 34.



Expressing himself in colourful language which at times bordered on the gleeful, Mr Justice Bennett lambasted Ms Mills' decision to represent herself after she fired her own divorce lawyers. He described her as a litigant who "flagrantly over-eggs the pudding and thus deprives the court of any sensible assistance" adding that if she was unhappy with the final financial settlement she "only has herself to blame".



Mr Justice Bennett was also scathing about the role Ms Mills claimed to have played during her marriage, in which she described herself as her husband's "full-time wife, mother, lover, confidante, business partner and psychologist."



Instead, the judge wrote: "I have to say that the wife's evidence that in some way she was the husband's 'psychologist', even allowing for hyperbole, is typical of her make-belief ... I wholly reject her account that she rekindled the husband's professional flame and gave him back his confidence."



His judgment also laid bare exactly how much Ms Mills was hoping to get out of her divorce settlement with her estranged husband, who she has always claimed is worth £800m rather than the court's valuation of £400m. According to the judgment, Ms Mills demanded £3.25m a year for her and her daughter, which amounted to a lump sum of almost £100m. On top of that she asked for a further £8m to £12.5m for a home in London, £3m for a house in New York and £500,000 for an office in Brighton for her sister, Fiona, who has remained by her side throughout much of the divorce proceedings.



Mr Justice Bennett dismissed those claims, calling them "unreasonable, indeed exorbitant".



But perhaps most damaging to Ms Mills' career as a charity campaigner, meanwhile, was the revelation within the judgment that her tax returns "disclose no charitable giving at all", despite her assurances that she gave "as much as 80 per cent or 90 per cent of her earnings ... direct to charities."



When contacted by the BBC yesterday Ms Mills said that the judgment was "outrageous" but declined to elaborate.



She was, however, willing to explain why her estranged husband's lawyer, Fiona Shackleton, left court on Monday afternoon with distinctly wet hair. "I poured the whole jug of water on her head," she admitted. "I was very calm."



Mr Justice Bennett's judgment



Her testimony:



"Having watched and listened to her give evidence, having studied the documents, and having given in her favour every allowance for the enormous strain she must have been under (and in conducting her own case), I am driven to the conclusion that much of her evidence, both written and oral, was not just inconsistent and inaccurate but also less than candid. Overall she was a less than impressive witness.



"If the wife feels aggrieved about what I propose, she only has herself to blame. If, as she has done, a litigant flagrantly over-eggs the pudding and thus deprives the court of any sensible assistance, then he or she is likely to find that the court takes a robust view and drastically prunes the proposed budget.



"Although she strongly denied it, her case boils down to the syndrome of 'me too' or 'if he has it, I want it too'. It must have been absolutely plain to the wife after separation that it was wholly unrealistic to expect to go on living at the rate at which she perceived she was living."



Her victimisation by the media:



"She is entitled to feel that she has been ridiculed, even vilified. To some extent she is her own worst enemy. She has an explosive and volatile character. She cannot have done herself any good in the eyes of potential purchasers of her services as a TV presenter, public speaker and a model, by her outbursts in her TV interviews in October and November 2007. Nevertheless, the fact is that at present she is at a disadvantage. The wife would say she is at a severe disadvantage. I think she overplays her hand."



Her claims to independent means:



"I find that the wife's case as to her wealth in 1999 to be wholly exaggerated. The assertion that she was a wealthy person in 1999 is, of course, the first step in her overall case that her career, which in 1999 she says was one producing rich financial rewards, was thereafter blighted by the husband during their relationship.



"The penthouse flat in Denman Street was not worth £500,000 in 1999. She sold it on 20 March 2001 for £385,000 after the London property market had risen substantially since 1999. She did not in 1999 own the property in Cross Street in Brighton."



Her personal expenditure:



"She claims for seven fully staffed properties with full-time housekeepers in the annual sum of £645,000. She claims holiday expenditure of £499,000 per annum (including private and helicopter flights of £185,000), £125,000pa for her clothes, £30,000pa for equestrian activities (she no longer rides), £39,000pa for wine (she does not drink alcohol), £43,000 pa for a driver, £20,000pa for a carer, and professional fees of £190,000pa."



Her demands:



"In her letter of 31 January 2008 the wife computes her reasonable needs for herself and Beatrice at £3,250,000pa which amounts on a Duxbury capitalised basis to £99,480,000. She seeks a property adjustment order in respect of a property in Beverly Hills called 'Heather House' and of a property in New York State, 11 Pintail. She seeks between £8m and £12.5m for a home in London, £3m to purchase a property in New York, £500,000 to £750,000 to purchase an office in Brighton."



Her charitable giving:



Ms Mills claimed that "much of her earnings, which are not included in tax returns, were sent directly to charities of her nomination. In her evidence she told me that as much as 80 to 90 per cent of her earnings went direct to charities. However, the wife had to accept in her cross examination that there was no documentary evidence ... for the years 1997 and 2000 inclusive, that her fees were sent direct to charities.



"During her cross-examination she asserted for the first time that in addition to property assets she had £2m-£3m in the bank. The wife accepted that had she had £2m to £3m in the bank in 1999 she is most likely to have put such a sum into an account earning interest. But the tax returns do not disclose any bank interest earned or only very small sums which are not consistent with holding £2m-£3m in a bank or banks. Moreover her tax returns disclose no charitable giving at all."



Her life as wife and 'business partner':



"It is a central part of [Ms Mills'] case that she helped the husband to communicate better with his children, particularly Heather. She 'counselled' him through his grieving over Linda. She gave him confidence after Linda's death to restart touring. She says she helped him write his songs. She suggested that he should have an acrylic fingernail because he had worn down his fingernail of his left hand to the point that it bled. She helped, it is said, with the set design and lighting on his tours. She went on every tour; indeed, she says, he insisted on her coming.



"I reject her evidence that she, vis-à-vis the husband, was anything more than a kind and loving person who was deeply in love with him, helped him through his grieving and like any new wife tried to integrate into their relationship the children of his former marriage. I wholly reject her account that she rekindled the husband's professional flame and gave him back his confidence.



"In my judgement the picture painted by the husband of the wife's part in his emotional and professional life is much closer to reality than the wife's account. The wife, as the husband said, enjoys being the centre of attention. Her presence on his tours came about because she loved the husband, enjoyed being there and because she thoroughly enjoyed the media and public attention. I am prepared to accept that her presence was emotionally supportive to him but to suggest that in some way she was his 'business partner' is, I am sorry to have to say, make-belief.



"I have to say that the wife's evidence that in some way she was the husband's 'psychologist', even allowing for hyperbole, is typical of her make-belief.



"Repeatedly in his evidence the husband described how even during his relationship with the wife in 1999 to 2002 he was grieving for Linda. I have no doubt the husband found the wife very attractive. But equally I have no doubt that he was still very emotionally tied to Linda. It is not without significance that until the husband married the wife he wore the wedding ring given to him by Linda. Upon being married to the wife he removed it and it was replaced by a ring given to him by the wife."



Her professional career:



On the issue of claims for compensation for her lost career, Ms Mills gave evidence that Sir Paul had advised her "against 99 per cent" of what she described as "countless, lucrative business opportunities" made to her once they had married. But the judge said: "I find that, far from the husband dictating to and restricting the wife's career and charitable activities, he did the exact opposite, as he says. He encouraged it and lent his support, name and reputation to her business and charitable activities. The facts as I find them do not in any way support her claim. Compensation therefore does not arise.



"The wife's case is that her earning capacity is now zero. The wife, as I have said, blames the husband for his attitude towards her working during the marriage. That I have found to be a false case."

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