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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 May 2006, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
McCartney and Mills to separate
Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills

Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his wife Heather Mills are to separate after four years of marriage.

A joint statement said they had "found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with constant intrusion into our private lives".

Sir Paul and Mills, a former model, married in June 2002. They had a daughter, Beatrice, a year later.

They met in 1999 through Mills' work for her charity, launched after losing a leg in a motorbike accident in 1993.

The statement said: "Having tried exceptionally hard to make our relationship work given the daily pressures surrounding us, it is with sadness that we have decided to go our separate ways.

To have to go through this so publicly, especially with a small daughter, is immensely stressful
Joint statement by Sir Paul and Mills

"Our parting is amicable and both of us still care about each other very much but have found it increasingly difficult to maintain a normal relationship with constant intrusion into our private lives, and we have actively tried to protect the privacy of our child.

"Separation for any couple is difficult enough, but to have to go through this so publicly, especially with a small daughter, is immensely stressful.

"We hope, for the sake of our baby daughter, that we will be given some space and time to get through this difficult period."

Heather Mills and Sir Paul McCartney protesting in Canada against the annual seal slaughter
The couple have carried out animal rights campaigning this year

Sir Paul put a separate statement on his personal website, criticising the media's coverage of the breakup.

"It's been suggested that she [Mills] married me for the money and there is not an ounce of truth in this," he wrote.

"I'm very sad to see that some insensitive people would choose a moment like this to spread these vicious rumours."

Mills has endured repeated press criticism since their wedding, including claims that she influenced her husband's decisions on everything from his appearance to his work.

In the past, Sir Paul has refuted claims of a rift between his wife and his children.

Recent reports had suggested the couple were living at separate addresses.

Sir Paul, 63, was said to be living on the family farm in Peasmarsh, East Sussex, while 38-year-old Mills was reportedly at the couple's home in Hove.

The couple have also appeared together at public engagements this year, protesting in Canada in March against the slaughter of seal pups and in a BBC documentary last month on the fur trade.

They were married in June 2002 at the 17th Century Castle Leslie in Glaslough, County Monaghan, Ireland.

Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills the day before their wedding
They met fans the day before their carefully shielded wedding

Sir Paul later revealed the venue was chosen because his mother had been born in County Monaghan.

Sir Paul has been world famous for five decades following the global success of the Beatles in the 1960s.

He received a knighthood in 1997's New Year honours.

The musician is worth an estimated 800m, and Mills has revealed in the past that he turned down her offer to sign a prenuptial agreement to protect his fortune.

Sir Paul was previously married to Linda Eastman from 1969 until her death in 1998 from breast cancer, and it is said that they were only apart once during their marriage.

The couple had three children - musician James, photographer Mary, and fashion designer Stella. Sir Paul also has a stepdaughter, Heather, from Linda's first marriage.

Mills formed the Heather Mills Health Trust, recycling prosthetic limbs and campaigning against landmines, after being hit by a police motorcycle as she crossed a road in 1993.

She is now founding patron of UK charity Adopt A Minefield, along with her husband.

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