Novelist victim of `vitriolic campaign'

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The Independent Online
NOVELIST Ian McEwan has been the victim of a vitriolic and vengeful campaign by his ex-wife, the High Court heard yesterday.

Throughout the battle for custody of the couple's teenage sons, Penny Allen had waged a five-year war of "half truths, twisted information, inaccuracies and false inferences" in the court and press. High Court judge Mr Justice Charles ordered that confidential information about the couple's court battle could be revealed to set the record straight.

Details of Mrs Allen's "bizarre" ideas and behaviour were revealed for the first time at a hearing that permanently extended an injunction banning her from disclosing details of the custody battle.

The 51-year-old spiritual healer, who recently went on the run in France with her youngest son, who has now returned, appeared at a hearing earlier this week wearing a gag, while her fiance, Stephen Ismay Tremain, wore a makeshift nappy. She was not in court yesterday.

The High Court heard she had shown a defiant attitude to the court, which eventually granted sole custody of the boys, now 16 and 13, to Mr McEwan.

Mr McEwan by contrast had been the "model of courtesy and restraint" and had maintained a "dignified silence".

Yesterday the High Court heard that Oxford County Court judge Paul Clark, who dealt with the divorce in 1994 and subsequent custody cases, had found Mrs Allen to be a "self-centred" woman "more governed by her emotions than her intellect".

The court heard the judge had "substantially rejected" her allegations against her ex-husband. Mr McEwan, he said, had an extraordinarily good relationship with his children.

The couple were initially granted joint custody and both agreed not to disclose details of their private lives. In two years the ex-wife had broken the agreement. In 1998 she decided to move to France and take her children from Oxford to Brittany. In February 1999, the judge gave Mr McEwan sole custody, granting her contact.

"As in 1995 the mother is quite incapable of separating the wood from the trees... she is obsessed with the past," he said.

By August this year, the court heard, Mr Tremain had started making "threatening and taunting" calls to the writer, which resulted in a new order banning him and Mrs Allen from harassing Mr McEwan.

Mr Justice Charles said it was in the overall public interest that he should make a permanent injunction against Mrs Allen and her fiance as there was substantial risk she would continue to repeat the allegations.