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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2007, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Tycoon couple's laundry aired in public
By Victoria Bone
BBC News

US businessman Matthew Mellon has been acquitted of paying private detectives to hack into his ex-wife Tamara's computer during their divorce. Parts of the trial were reminiscent of a scene from the famous soap-operas Dallas or Dynasty.

Tamara Mellon and her ex-husband Matthew Mellon
Tamara Mellon married her husband Matthew in 2000

Matthew Mellon II was the scion of a famous American banking dynasty. His grandfather was US Treasury Secretary in the 1920s and his father, Paul Mellon, owned a string of racehorses including Mill Reef, which won the Derby in 1971.

Tamara's mother was a former Chanel model and her father was co-founder of Vidal Sassoon.

Born in Berkshire but raised in Beverly Hills, she was first sent to boarding school in England and then to the same Swiss finishing school Diana, Princess of Wales, attended.

Stars at wedding

She worked as a shop girl and had spells in PR before becoming accessories editor of Vogue and a fixture on the party scene.

The pair, who met in 1998, married in a star-studded event at Blenheim Palace.

Matthew Mellon

Their close friends Elizabeth Hurley and Hugh Grant were among the guests and American Vogue dedicated eight pages to the nuptials.

The Mellons had a daughter, but the marriage began to flounder and in 2003 Mrs Mellon began divorce proceedings.

Mrs Mellon had turned the Jimmy Choo shoe company from a niche East End cobbler into a global fashion brand.

She made 185m this year from selling the company, which she began in 1996 with a 150,000 loan from her father.

She retained a stake of between 10% and 20% and the presidency of the company.

During the trial the prosecution claimed that her husband was obsessed about knowing her financial assets.

Received e-mails

Several months later, Mrs Mellon's assistant intercepted a string of e-mails apparently offering sympathy and assistance.

It later emerged they were so-called "tempters" containing a highly sophisticated "Trojan" virus that would - had she opened them - have recorded every stroke she made on the keyboard.

The prosecution claimed they had been created by a technology wizard working for the AIS private detective agency.

But Mr Mellon's counsel, Nicholas Purnell, QC, said his client had paid them 12,000 to check whether Tamara was concealing financial information during their "acrimonious" divorce but had no idea they would do anything illegal.

He claimed Mr Mellon has himself been "duped and gulled" by AIS.

The courtroom was packed the day Mrs Mellon took the witness stand.

Tamara Mellon at court
Matthew cannot even read a comic let alone a legal document
Tamara Mellon

Dressed from head-to-toe in designer clothes and wearing 2,000 four-inch crocodile skin Jimmy Choos, she revealed intimate details about her marriage.

She told Southwark Crown Court her former husband, now 43, was "like a child" and with a memory that made him "miss planes like other people missed buses", according to prosecutors.

'Absent-minded'

Mrs Mellon, 38, said: "For a long time I didn't want him to be alone with our daughter just because he is so absent-minded. I wanted him to be supervised even though he is fantastic with her. He is too absent-minded to be alone with her."

But for all his deficiencies her former husband, who lives in Belgravia, central London, was "happy, playful, excitable and very sweet" and remained her "best friend", she said.

Mrs Mellon was asked about a dossier of information, supplied by AIS and found at her ex-husband's home when he was arrested, containing logs of computer activity.

She said there was "absolutely no way" he could have read or understood it. "Matthew cannot even read a comic let alone a legal document," she said.

Mr Mellon also suffered from insomnia, memory loss and a form of manic depression, the court heard.

Mrs Mellon's solicitor said she had been obliged to give evidence but was still good friends with her ex-husband and felt no bitterness towards him.






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