McCartney, Mills back in court over divorce

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LONDON -- Former Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills met in court on Thursday as British media speculated their divorce battle might be drawing to a close. News reports said Mills could receive between £20 million and £70 million ($40 million and $140 million) in a final settlement, including a one-off lump sum plus annual payments.

McCartney's spokesman said it was unlikely the star would be issuing a statement on Thursday, while Mills's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

Mills, 39, was bundled into the London court via the back entrance, under a cover thrown over her by security guards, photographers said. McCartney arrived several minutes later.

They left separately in the early evening, making no comment to reporters about what went on in the closed hearing.

The settlement could set a record for a contested divorce award in British courts. In August last year, insurance magnate John Charman was ordered to pay his wife £48 million after they divorced in 2003 after 27 years of marriage.

McCartney, 65, who has a fortune estimated at about £825 million, married Mills in 2002. They have a daughter, Beatrice, who turns 4 later this month.

The Sun newspaper quoted an unidentified friend of Mills as saying the couple wanted to settle the divorce before Beatrice's fourth birthday. This would mean they had about three weeks to finalize the details.

The split has been played out in the full glare of the media, which has cast Mills as a gold digger and publicity seeker -- suggestions she denies.

Mills works for several charities, including those involved in banning landmines and preventing cruelty to animals.
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