The already bitter divorce battle between Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney reached unprecedented levels of acrimony last night as both camps tried to outdo each other with competing accounts of abuse, violence and cruelty.
According to a report in the News of the World newspaper, the soon-to-be-ex Lady McCartney allegedly smashed up chairs and hurled household ornaments at the millionaire musician as they rowed at their home in Peasmarsh, East Sussex.
In one incident, unnamed "aides" recount how the former model and mother of his two-year-old daughter Beatrice threw a bottle of tomato ketchup at him during an hour-long argument as they ate dinner. Staff who witnessed the event dubbed the outburst which occurred in September 2003 "the ketchup battle".
These lurid revelations mark the start of round two of what is the astonishingly savage demise of the Mills-McCartney marriage. Round one featured the leaking of eight pages of legal documents to a gleeful media which detailed claims by Heather Mills that she was physically abused by her husband. More leaks and counter-leaks are expected to follow.
The News of the World also carries an interview with Geoff Baker, who was publicist to Sir Paul for 15 years, in which he refutes claims made in the divorce papers circulated last week that the former Beatle was violent towards his wife during their short marriage.
There were a number of claims in the purported divorce papers that Sir Paul committed acts of domestic violence, was sometimes drunk and refused to stop smoking cannabis.
In response, Mr Baker says that it was incredible that his former boss, who worked for the star for 15 years until 2004, would do such things and added that he had witnessed how happy the couple had been together. "I was with them for four years when she says a lot of this took place. On my son's life, I never saw him lay a finger on her or throw abuse at her."
Joe Flannery, a longtime friend and former Beatles booking manager, is also quoted casting doubt on Ms Mills's claims about Sir Paul. "I know Paul and he is not a violent man. I have never seen him provoked and he never resorted to violence. It is just not in his nature."
However, the Mail on Sunday newspaper carries the extraordinary allegation from "a close friend" of Ms Mills that Sir Paul used to beat up his first wife, Linda. It is understood that Ms Mills is also planning to make an application to the High Court next month for the divorce case, which is expected to go ahead next March, to be heard in open court.
The paper quotes a "legal source" who says that Ms Mills has got medical records which back up the claims of violence against her. "She wants to lay bare everything that happened in the marriage and make sure everyone hears her side of the story."
Ms Mills's namesake, the former Independent journalist Heather Mills, also gives an amusing account of how Lady McCartney posed as her for over a year to secure a job as a television journalist. The writer, who now works for the magazine Private Eye, recounts how the former model pretended to be her even in a series of meetings with TV executives, passing off Ms Mills's cuttings of stories that she had written as her own.
On one occasion, Lady McCartney accepted praise for work that Ms Mills had done for the Observer newspaper on disability benefit cuts. The deception was only uncovered when a call to colleagues of Ms Mills revealed that she was able-bodied, unlike Lady McCartney who uses a prosthetic leg after her real limb had to be amputated after she was hit by a police car. "I can't say her impersonating me did me any harm. It has amused colleagues and friends," she adds.
The Sunday Times reveals that Heather Mills plans to call Sir Paul's staff as witnesses to back up her claims. Earlier in the week, it was reported that five pages were missing from the legal document that was leaked to the media. However, The Sunday Times says the reason the pages were missing pages was that they contained the names of at least four of Sir Paul's staff that Heather Mills hopes to call as witnesses to back up her claims that she was treated violently and cruelly by her estranged husband.
According to the Daily Mail yesterday, Lady Mills-McCartney has also deployed cameras and tape recorders in private, recording key elements in the breakdown of her relationship with Sir Paul. It is also claimed by a "source close to her" Ms Mills that she is willing to take a lie detector test to prove her lurid allegations against Sir Paul are true. "She has got nothing to hide and wants people to see that her evidence is true."
What is missing from all these accounts is any official statement from either Ms Mills or Sir Paul of their version of events. The former Beatle today gives an interview to one Sunday newspaper but it is devoid of any detail about the demise of his marriage. Instead, he talks to the Sunday Express about how he wanted to dedicate his latest work, his album Ecce Cor Meum, to his first wife Linda but felt it was inappropriate as he was married to Ms Mills. "I wanted to but I was married to someone else. It wasn't appropriate. Linda runs through this piece, it was written with her in mind."
The story so far
Tuesday 17 October
Some 13 pages of Heather's purported response to her estranged husband's divorce petition are faxed to the Press Association and Bloomsberg by an unknown party. Neither runs the story. The fax also arrives at the press room of the Royal Courts of Justice, and the Daily Mail, which splashes on the story and runs three pages inside. The gist is that Heather accuses Paul of domestic violence, being drunk and refusing to stop smoking cannabis.
Heather: Macca 'beat me up'
"Explosive court papers lodged by her lawyers in their £1bn divorce battle portray him as a vindictive man who once tried to choke her and even attacked her while she was pregnant."
Mills makes a pre-arranged appearance on BBC1's City Hospital but refuses to comment. Fleet Street is in a feeding frenzy, aided and abetted by " friends" real or imagined.
'One close friend who has known Paul since the 1960s'
"Heather is painting herself as the downtrodden Geordie peasant girl who has been cast aside by the uncaring 'Lord of the Manor'. I think she has been reading too many Catherine Cookson novels. The truth is that she is desperately trying to damage Paul's reputation, doubtless to get more cash out of him."
"The gloves are off. Two months ago Heather had a furious row with Sir Paul and showed her true colours. Heather felt humiliated and her only response is to fight an underhand battle. She told him unless he offered her a serious amount of cash she would bring him down."
Juliet Gellatley, Friend of Heather
"She's loving, she's generous. And those qualities are very evident when you meet her. If you get her talking about her charity work, whether it's being against the landmines, whether it's being on animal causes, she is very passionate and they are what drive her."
By the evening, McCartney's lawyers issue a statement saying he would remain silent but that he would defend the allegations at the appropriate point.
Mills's lawyers send out letters from her lawyers warning that newspaper stories based on leaks were "a breach of privacy". Journalists learn that five pages are missing from the faxed documents. Speculation mounts, "friends" get even more talkative, and the couple's daughter, Bea, is photographed being ferried around by Mills's trainer.
"She may be planning to smugly watch as Paul's reputation is publicly destroyed. But unfortunately this will backfire. All she has done is expose her passion for plot, scheme and manipulation of the truth. Paul is hurt and very, very angry."
"This is coming from a woman with a well-documented problem with the truth. This document was leaked with the very specific intention in mind of damaging Paul's reputation and trying to hurt Paul."
'Close friends of Heather'
"All I can do is tell you how I find Heather as a person, which is somebody who is a very lovely, warm, passionate person, somebody who has a big sense of humour - certainly she's got the ability to laugh at situations and herself."
"Any sympathy I once had for Ms Mills has evaporated."
McCartney reported to have consulted a psychiatrist. Heather visits lawyers' offices and emerges smiling. But contrast between her deposition and the life of married bliss portrayed in her recent book are pointed out.
'A pal in his close circle'
"Paul has been looking tired and strained in recent weeks. These latest lies from Heather will only add to his anguish. He has lost the chubbiness in his face because he is suffering deeply from his marriage falling apart."
'The Macca Pal'
"These allegations that he was violent to Heather are simply untrue. Paul is suffering deeply and Heather does not give a damn. She is just so cold and calculating."
'A source close to Ms Mills'
"Up until fairly recently Paul and Heather had been getting on OK... But unfortunately their relationship has deteriorated now to such an extent that they cannot stand to be in the same room as one another."
"Heather is in floods of tears. I absolutely believe she was not responsible for any of this."
Mills has apparently recorded their rows on a series of tapes. McCartney is said to have "broken down in tears" as tensions heighten.
'A source close to the star'
"This is clearly taking a huge toll on Paul. His biggest fear is that he'll be painted in a bad light - and [Bea] will be taken from him."
'A source close to Ms Mills'
"Whatever she says or does now, Heather feels she cannot win: people are siding with Paul. But she is confident that she can actually prove some of these claims. Without going into specifics, she reckons to have tangible evidence showing that Paul not only verbally attacked her but was also physically aggressive."
Additional reporting by Charlotte GriffithsReuse content