Hawking's lawyers ask nurses for statements

Lawyers acting for Stephen Hawking and his second wife have asked nurses to provide statements of support about the care he received to pass to police investigating alleged assaults on the scientist.

Professor Hawking could be discharged from Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge this weekend after treatment for pneumonia.

Police are investigating allegations that the 62-year-old scientist was regularly assaulted by his second wife, Elaine, his former nurse, which she and the professor strongly deny. Solicitors for Professor Hawking have written to his former nurses and carers asking them to make statements of support about how he was treated. Any statements volunteered would then be given to the police investigation.

The professor - whose explanation of quantum physics, A Brief History of Time, has sold 25 million copies - has suffered a string of unexplained injuries ranging from sunstroke to a broken wrist. Cambridgeshire Police would not comment on the letters or the prospect of his discharge from hospital.

Professor Hawking was given months to live when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 20. In 1990, he left his wife Jane for Elaine Mason, who had been one of his nurses since 1985. The couple married nine years ago.