The world’s press had already spent a whole week stood waiting outside Court 34 of London’s Royal Courts of Justice, clutching at journalistic straws as Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills arrived and left each day of their divorce hearing.
So, when decision day arrived on Monday, they weren’t going to be put off by a further morning’s delay.
Like fans queuing for tickets at Wimbledon, journalists sat on the bare stone floor outside the court room more than an hour ahead of the 10.30am start for the ruling in the big-money divorce.
By the time it came for Mr Justice Hugh Bennett to hand down his judgment to the feuding spouses in private, a crowd of more than 50 hacks huddled outside, with no way of knowing what was going on behind the court’s firmly closed doors and frosted windows.
With facial expressions having given nothing away as McCartney and Mills arrived separately, desperate snaps centred on what the parties wore; did Heather’s confident outfit – a multi-coloured, almost patchwork, suit and bright red blouse suggest all eyes would be on her come the result?
Time ticked by as rumours spread through the crowd, suggesting the judgment would be released, but not today on paper, rather on the internet. At some point. Court security guards on duty at the door were suddenly the centre of attention, as the press tried in vain to get an idea of quite how long this would take.
Shortly after noon, Sir Paul emerged – but only to spend a penny while he still had all his millions left. Quite accidentally, one agency reporter wandered in fresh from covering a different case, and found himself side-by-side at the urinals with a Beatle.
As Sir Paul returned hurriedly to the court, shaking his hands, a reporter asked, optimistically, ‘Almost finished, Sir Paul?’.
“No comment”, came the polite reply, and the waiting game began again. Time for the traditional courts’ ‘short adjournment’ over lunch arrived at 1pm, but still nothing happened.
Finally, after 1.30, Heather strode out to announce it was over, and led most of the press out to the Royal Courts’ front steps on the Strand, where a countless throng of photographers and cameramen awaited.
Those that remained saw Sir Paul leave with a cheery ‘All will be revealed’, just as the judge’s clerk handed out a short summary of the resolution of the case. The full judgment will remain in private, for now, pending an appeal in which Heather will seek to increase the £24.3 million she will walk away from the four-year marriage with; that figure comprising a £16.5million lump sum the judge ordered Sir Paul to pay, on top of her own assets of £7.8million.
Though short on scandalous detail – the summary reveals that ‘alleged conduct’ on the part of both parties was deemed “irrelevant” by the judge – it showed that while the media’s prediction Heather would net £25million was pretty close to the mark, other widely reported figures were way off.
The judge’s statement said there was “no evidence at all” to support claims that Sir Paul’s fortune was as high as £800million – exactly half that figure being nearer the mark. And while many reported Heather as seeking to leave the marriage with £55million, her actual aspirations were a much more ambitious £125million.