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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
McCartney publicist sacking 'a joke'
Paul McCartney
Sir Paul had wanted it to be a "private visit"
Sir Paul McCartney has told his publicist he was "joking" about sacking him after a row broke out at a visit to the David Blaine stunt.

Police are investigating an alleged fracas between Sir Paul and a photographer during the visit at 0100 on Friday.

His publicist, Geoff Baker, admitted he had "stupidly" tipped off the photographer about the visit - and that Sir Paul had sacked him on the spot.

Mr Baker released a statement on behalf of Sir Paul on Friday afternoon saying: "We were out to dinner with a few friends walking along the Embankment.

"One of the lads tipped off the press, who were watching a man in a sleeping bag in a box, that Paul was passing.

"Paul then continued to joke by telling his mate, who is his publicist, that he was fired.

"Paul then got into a car and went home. Reports that this was a fracas or anything other than a group of friends on a night out are heavily exaggerated."

'Private visit'

Sir Paul came down to the stunt - where illusionist David Blaine is trying to spend 44 days without food suspended in a Perspex box - after dining with friends in central London.

Mr Baker, Sir Paul's PR representative for 14 years, told London's Evening Standard newspaper Sir Paul did not want to have his photo taken as it was a "private visit".

But Mr Baker tipped off Standard photographer Kevin Wheal, who came down to the site of the stunt, on London's South Bank.

Mr Wheal said he approached the star with his camera.

Assault allegations

"Then his friends - who seemed more like minders to me - grabbed hold of me and pushed my camera towards the ground," Mr Wheal said.

The photographer also said Sir Paul swore at him and pushed him to the ground.

Police are investigating allegations of common assault form both parties.

David Blaine
Blaine wants to spend 44 days in a box without food

"Shortly before 1am today officers near the David Blaine stunt show became aware of a dispute between a group of friends, a photographer and other members of the public," a Scotland Yard spokesman said.

"Following the altercation we have received two counter allegations of common assault.

"The group of friends have alleged that they were assaulted by a man during the argument.

No punches

"He alleges that they assaulted him. Statements were taken at the scene. Walworth police are investigating and inquiries continue."

Earlier in the day a distraught Mr Baker said the star was "very angry" with him after he learned the publicist had tipped Mr Wheal off, though he said no punches were thrown during the incident.

Mr Baker, a former newspaper reporter, is one of the former Beatle's closest aides.

He helped Sir Paul through the death of his wife Linda McCartney, as well as dealing with his music releases and Beatles developments.

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