McCartney hits back at claim that he stabbed wife with wine glass

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The Independent Online

Sir Paul McCartney faced a series of extraordinary claims yesterday that he had bullied and assaulted his estranged wife Heather Mills as the publication of leaked legal papers saw the already bitter relations between the two plummet to a new low.

The 13-page document, faxed to news organisations by an anonymous source on Tuesday night, contained lurid allegations detailing the collapse of the couple's marriage. Sir Paul responded last night by issuing a statement in which he claimed he "will be defending these allegations vigorously and appropriately".

In the statement issued through his lawyers, the former Beatle said he would "very much like to respond in public and in detail to the allegations made recently against him by his wife" but will instead respond through the divorce courts.

Sources close to Sir Paul claimed the leak was part of a media strategy to discredit him. "Paul denies this version of events completely," the source said.

A transcript of the claims levelled at Sir Paul was published in late editions of the Daily Mail and its sister paper the Evening Standard yesterday morning. The Sun also carried excerpts as did the BBC and other newspaper websites.

As well as claiming the petitioner (Sir Paul) had been "physically violent towards the respondent" (Ms Mills) it alleged that he had "behaved in a vindictive, punitive manner ... thereby exposing her to risk".

Ms Mills' legal firm Mishcon de Reya, which is representing her in the reported £200m divorce claim, declined to authenticate the documents.

However, in statement it said: "Lady Heather Mills McCartney stands by everything that has been filed at court on her behalf and intends to prove its truth in due course, should this be necessary."

Ms Mill's spokesman, former News of the World editor Phil Hall said his client was intent on maintaining a "dignified silence" and would not be speaking out.

She carefully avoided all reference to the claims during a live television appearance on BBC TV's City Hospital yesterday in which she discussed her counselling work with victims of 7 July. Mr Hall said: "I am certain that Heather would not commit perjury. I spoke to Heather this morning and she was shocked. She has been through a lot in the last few months, but these three or four weeks she has got stronger."

The papers purport to reveal the marriage's steady disintegration. As relations broke down in April 2006, it is claimed the multi-millionaire songwriter lunged at Ms Mills, 38, with a snapped-off wine glass, cutting her arm and leaving her with a scar, after pouring wine over her head. He is accused of flinging his bleeding spouse into a wheelchair before "screaming at her to apologise for 'winding him up'".

The former model, who lost a leg in a motorcycle collision, also accused Sir Paul of failing to pressurise Rupert Murdoch after one of his newspapers, The Sunday Times, prepared to run a derogatory article about her. The singer was due to perform at the Superbowl which was being televised by another of the media tycoon's companies, Fox TV.

It was also alleged that the 64-year-old broke a promise made before the couple's marriage in 2002 that he would give up using illegal drugs and drinking alcohol to excess.

In another damning claim, it is alleged that a drunk Sir Paul "grabbed the respondent by the neck and pushed her over a coffee table" during a row following her appearance on the Barbara Walters show.

Five months later, in Rome in March 2003 when Ms Mills was four-weeks pregnant, it is alleged that Sir Paul pushed his wife into the bath and then demanded she attend a concert he was giving in the city.

In Long Island in August that year, it is claimed the star became furious after being challenged by his wife over smoking marijuana. "He became very angry, yelled at her, grabbed her neck and started choking her."

The papers claim Sir Paul showed "no regard for her emotional or physical (and especially, her disability) needs" following the birth of the couple's daughter in October and forced her to accompany him on his travels. Two-and-a-half years later it is claimed that during a trip following an operation, Ms Mills was forced to "crawl on her hands and knees up aeroplane steps because they were not wide enough to take her wheelchair".

It is alleged that Sir Paul told his wife he did not want her to breastfeed because, he said, "they are my breasts" adding on another occasion "I don't want a mouthful of breast milk."

In the document, Ms Mills claims that her husband forced her to cancel an operation to fit in with his holiday plans and demanded she cook his and his daughter's meal for him every night - even when she was on crutches and "in agony".

The papers allege the rock star would not let his wife get out of bed before him in the morning, nor would he allow her to purchase an antique bedpan to alleviate painful excursions to the toilet in the night made without her prosthetic limb. It is claimed he told her using it would be like living in "an old woman's home".

The apparent rekindling of hostilities between the two earned a rash of warnings from family law experts. Andrew Greensmith, chairman of Resolution said the public should not be persuaded that allegations of bad behaviour, except in the most extreme cases, would not persuade a court to order a higher divorce settlement. "Resolution believes that allegations in high profile cases such as this don't help anyone, they simply up the ante, making it worse for any children involved," he said.

The claims

* Former Beatle accused of physically attacking estranged wife

* Broke pre-marriage promise to give up drink and drugs

* Did not take into account her emotional, physical and disability needs

* Interfered with her breastfeeding, saying: "They are my breasts"

* Refused to let her buy antique bedpan to avoid nocturnal lavatory visits

* Did not protect her from critical press reports