Paul McCartney And Heather Mills Bring Their Divorce To A Finish

A Thick fog enveloping London added to the air of secrecy as Paul McCartney and Heather Mills arrived separately to hammer out a deal in the most celebrated and potentially most costly divorce battle in British legal history.

The estranged couple arrived at the judge's entrance to the Royal Courts of Justice in Holborn yesterday for negotiations to finalise the agreement.

Amid a clamour of media interest in the case, neither the judge nor the exact venue had been disclosed and Mills was led from her car with a blanket covering her head.

The aim of the hearing, which comes after months of acrimony and accusations, is to agree a financial settlement and avoid the dispute going to further costly and public hearings.

McCartney, 65, has reportedly offered £20 million ($45 million), but Mills, 39, is said to be seeking closer to £50 million.

Divorce lawyers following the case believe the couple will be keen to reach a settlement as they are anxious to shield their three-year-old daughter Beatrice from a lengthy legal process. Some divorce specialists have predicted McCartney - worth an estimated £825 million - faces a total payout approaching £70 million.

The deal is expected to outstrip the £48 million that insurance broker John Charman, 53, was ordered to pay his former wife Beverley in May this year, in Britain's biggest contested divorce settlement to date.

The former Beatle married Mills, an ex-model, in June 2002, four years after his first wife Linda died of breast cancer. They met at a charity event in 1999 and their early relationship was characterised by newspaper headlines claiming that McCartney's three grown-up children disapproved of the match.

The pair seemed united by their love of charity work and campaigning but Mills, who lost a leg in a road accident in 1993, remained unpopular with the public and the press.

Since their union broke down last year, the couple's divorce has been played out acrimoniously in the public eye, with Mills saying in March that securing a divorce deal was like "getting blood out of a stone". Sir Paul has mostly kept quiet during the proceedings.

Mills also appeared on the US television show Dancing With the Stars, where she won fans for her determination to master the tricky dance routines.

Relations between Mills and McCartney appear to be thawing. They have been pictured in public together and are said to be making an effort to get along for the sake of their daughter.

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