They were the beautiful people. She was India’s first supermodel and he made movies and counted Guy Ritchie among his friends. When Craig Maxwell Sterry and Ujjwala Raut married five years ago, they did so at David Bowie’s Manhattan penthouse dressed in Yves Saint Laurent couture.
But things have turned decidedly ugly for the Scottish film producer and the woman who once sashayed alongside Naomi Campbell. A bitter break-up has been dragged into India’s courts and police in Goa say they are looking for Mr Sterry, who has gone into hiding after his residency permit was revoked and he was given 72 hours to leave the country.
Tomorrow Mr Sterry’s lawyer will argue his case before the country’s Supreme Court, claiming that Ms Raut has used her “powerful connections” to have his client’s visa quashed and separate him from their young daughter. “My wife being an extremely influential and powerful person has tried to create havoc in my life by initiating false complaints,” Mr Sterry, 47, was quoted as saying.
It had once been so very different. The pair met on a blind date in France. She later told an interviewer that after the couple’s first date, Mr Sterry confided to a close friend: “I’ve just met my wife.” They talked about eloping, but the pair eventually decided to get married in New York and Ms Raut became pregnant soon afterwards.
The couple moved to Goa and did up an old property in Alconda, and then Ms Raut decided to resume her work as a model. And so Mr Sterry – who, because he was married to an Indian was granted a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card and permitted to live in India – stayed in Goa with their daughter Ksha while Ms Raut jetted back and forth.
Things took a turn for the worst last year when, after a series of incidents when Ms Raut brought home expensive gifts from men, the two fought. Both Mr Sterry and Ms Raut accuse the other of launching an unprovoked attack.
Earlier this year Ms Raut, 31, filed for divorce, claiming that both she and Ksha were frightened of Mr Sterry. He says he has not seen his daughter since March and has launched his own lawsuit, saying that because the couple were married in the US, Indian courts were not able to rule on their divorce.
Ms Raut, who won the Miss India title in 1996 and was the first Indian to appear as the face of Yves Saint Laurent, has declined to comment on the case, saying that the matter is now before the courts. However, earlier she told Indian journalists: “If Maxwell is alleging abuse and intimidation, why is he sending the media letters? Why is he not resorting to court procedures, which is how things should be?”