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Last Updated: Monday, 18 February 2008, 18:59 GMT
Reporting the McCartney divorce
By David Sillito
BBC News entertainment reporter

Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills
The couple had been married for four years
Never have toilet breaks been more carefully analysed.

Interest in the divorce hearing of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills has been huge - but the press has been forbidden from sitting in on the proceedings in Court 34 at the High Court.

However, that hasn't stopped the media from filing round-the-clock reports from the corridor outside.

A pack of journalists has been reduced to analysing facial expressions, clothes and, at one point, a banana in the desperate search for something to say about a court case they are not allowed to report.

The tiniest details took on undue significance as the proceedings took place behind closed doors and blacked out windows.

It has been an odd and at times surreal experience
There was a brief moment of activity last Thursday afternoon as the nearby inquest into the death of Princess Diana finished early, allowing some of its passionate followers to pay a visit to court 34.

So, when Heather Mills finally emerged at the end of the days' evidence, she was not just met by the dozen-or-so journalists who had, by now, almost given up asking questions she wasn't going to answer.

Among the additional faces was a man with a giant Valentine card to Diana, and another who had Diana and Dodi's names painted on his face.

It has been an odd and at times surreal experience.

Photographic scrutiny

Each day, Sir Paul would arrive and exit through an entrance at the back of the High Court.

Heather Mills would use the gateway at the front of the court to rush past in a car with heavily tinted windows.

Sir Paul McCartney
Facial expressions were scrutinised for insights into the trial
Photographers arrived early and jostled in the shrubbery to gain a vantage point. The few snatched shots could then be spun in to an entire story.

On Monday, a photo of Paul McCartney as he left the High Court appeared to show a tired and weary former Beatle.

Heather Mills looked a bit more cheery.

It was obviously, therefore, a tough day in court. A sign of legal brinkmanship.

On Tuesday they appeared to smile briefly and the stories shifted to suggest a breakthrough.

To the assembled journalists, the truth was that there was no sign of any emotion - apart from two people trying not to give anything away - but the huge interest in the story demanded that something had to be filed.

Banana incident

As the hours and days went by, the toilet breaks, the outfits and the occasional murmuring of the security guard posted outside the court were all analysed to see if they might suggest an agreement was in prospect.

The "banana incident" also sparked a great deal of discussion.

One morning, it was observed that the only thing being carried into the court that wasn't a legal document was a humble banana.

The idea was floated that this meant the warring couple had decided to work through the lunch break - which could mean a settlement was in the offing.

We soon realised we'd reached new levels of insanity.

Heather Mills
Heather Mills represented herself in the divorce hearing

Later in the week, the hope of a breakthrough was fed by a number newspaper stories that said an agreement had been reached and that the court hearing was simply a formality.

There were detailed breakdowns of the figures that Heather Mills would receive.

One report said it would be 65 million. Lawyers were quoted as saying 25 million would be a more likely benchmark. Another expert said 10 million would have been sufficient to brings things to a conclusion.

So, throughout the week, there were reports of a huge divorce settlement expected to be between 10 and 80 million.

It was a fairly generous margin of error.

Reserved judgement

In the end, however, there was no agreement.

But, as Sir Paul's legal team left the High Court for the final time, there was a single sentence thrown out to the press pack. A proper fact.

It was to be a reserved judgement. In other words, the final decision was now in the hands of Mr Justice Bennett and he would in time determine how big the payout would be.

Almost certainly it would be kept private. So, at the end of the sixth day of deliberations at the High Court the couple have managed to keep the media guessing - and the judgment itself may remain just as secret.

However, if the case goes to appeal then there is the prospect that the proceedings will be held in public.

This may be far from over.



SEE ALSO
No agreement in McCartney divorce
18 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Mills 'to quit UK after divorce'
13 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Media circus follows McCartneys
11 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Sir Paul in divorce court hearing
11 Feb 08 |  Entertainment



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