Did MP's wife steal her love rival's kitten?

Christine Hemming was caught on CCTV stealing Beauty from the house of her husband's long-term mistress

The jealous wife of an MP who denies breaking into the house of her husband's mistress to steal his love child's pet cat was told yesterday she had been caught snatching the kitten on CCTV.

Christine Hemming, 53, is accused of taking the tabby named Beauty from the home of Emily Cox, the former researcher and long-term mistress of her husband John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley.

The prosecuting barrister Jason Pegg said Beauty, valued at £20, was "never seen again" after the incident on 29 September last year. "CCTV footage showed exactly what had happened to the cat," Mr Pegg told Birmingham Crown Court. "The defendant, Mrs Hemming, had sneaked around the back garden, she had opened the back door, she had entered Emily's house and she remained in that house for three minutes or so.

"She then left the house through the same door which she had entered but, when she left the house, under her left arm was Beauty the kitten."

Beauty was one of two six-month-old kittens owned by Isabel, the daughter of Mr Hemming, 51, and Miss Cox, 35. The MP has divided his time between the suburban Birmingham homes of his wife, with whom he also has three children, and Miss Cox since admitting to his affair in 2005.

Mr Hemming said at the time that his wife was "not best pleased", but the couple stayed together despite her claim that the affair was "about number 26" on the list of her errant spouse's philanderings. Even after the news earlier this year that his wife was to be taken to court for stealing Beauty, Mr Hemming denied that he had any intention of getting divorced.

Mr Pegg said yesterday: "This is, for want of a better word, a love triangle – a love triangle that both women are fully aware of." He asked the jury to treat the case unemotionally.

Miss Cox discovered the kitten was missing after coming home from a meeting, leading to Mr Hemming posting a photo of Beauty on his blog in an appeal to find her. Miss Cox only reviewed her house's CCTV footage, now being used as evidence against Mrs Hemming, after a week of searching the local area.

Mr Hemming's past year in Parliament has been almost as divisive as his private life. He enflamed controversy over super-injunctions by using parliamentary privilege to name Ryan Giggs as the footballer who had an affair with the former Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas, undermining a High Court order that his identity should remain secret.

The trial continues.

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