(AFP) – Feb 11, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his estranged wife Heather Mills remained tight-lipped Monday after they returned to court in a last-ditch bid to resolve their divorce battle behind closed doors.
Former model Mills could cross-examine McCartney herself during the five-day hearing at London's High Court, the last chance to reach an agreement without going to a public hearing in the high-profile split.
"No comment. I am sorry," said the 65-year-old singer after emerging briefly during a lunchtime break. Mills stayed inside the court, where the case was being heard away from the prying eyes of the media circus surrounding it.
At the end of the day both McCartney and Mills left without making any comment, the singer with his legal team and Mills accompanied by an entourage including her make-up artist.
The couple were last in court in October but failed to agree a financial settlement in what is claimed could be one of the costliest divorces in British legal history.
Mills, 40, was expected to conduct her own case after dismissing her legal team since their last appearance before a judge. If they fail to agree a private accord this week, the case will be heard in public.
On Saturday, the Daily Mail newspaper claimed McCartney would offer Mills 55 million pounds (74 million euros, 107 million dollars), without citing sources.
She would take a 20-million-pound lump sum and a further 2.5 million pounds each year for 14 years until their four-year-old daughter, Beatrice, turns 18, with a substantial amount set aside for security, it added.
McCartney would get equal visiting rights to the couple's daughter and retain his extensive property portfolio while Mills would agree not to live abroad for at least the next five years, it reported.
The paper said the deal would be the highest divorce settlement in Britain, outstripping the 48 million pounds businessman John Charman was told to pay his former wife last year.
Mills, a charity campaigner who lost a leg in a 1993 road accident, entered the court before the hearing via a back entrance dressed in a smart grey suit and clutching a blue folder.
McCartney was dressed in a dark pin-striped suit with a black and white knitted scarf around his neck.
Dozens of photographers and journalists swarmed outside the High Court desperate to catch a glimpse of, or a quote from, the pair and one television channel was even filming events from above in a helicopter.
McCartney is estimated to be worth 825 million pounds, but last year's Sunday Times Rich List -- which describes itself as the definitive guide to wealth -- made a 100-million-pound allowance for a possible divorce settlement.
The musician married Mills in 2002, four years after his first wife, Linda, died from breast cancer. They announced an "amicable" split in May 2006, but their dealings since have been anything but friendly.
In particular, private court documents detailing unflattering claims against McCartney appeared in newspapers. Mills denied being behind the leak.
She has since attacked Britain's tabloid newspapers for waging a hate campaign against her, comparing her treatment to that of Diana, the late princess of Wales and Kate McCann, whose toddler daughter disappeared in May last year.
She has also claimed the pressure of the divorce proceedings have driven her close to suicide.
McCartney for his part has been more circumspect, admitting that the divorce has been painful but saying he has tried to remain dignified and has been helped by music and the couple's young daughter.
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