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McCartney blasts 'vicious rumors' about Mills

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Heather Mills and Paul McCartney were married in 2002.

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Paul McCartney
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Former Beatle Paul McCartney has lashed out at the media, saying there is "not an ounce of truth" to reports that his estranged wife married him for money.

McCartney, who is worth more than $1 billion, and Heather Mills announced their separation Wednesday after four years of marriage.

In a statement on his Web site, the 63-year-old McCartney criticized the media for spreading "vicious rumors" about Mills. (Watch the good and bad times in Beatle marriage -- 2:00)

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

"She is a very generous person who spends most of her time trying to help others in greater need than herself," he said.

"All the work she does is unpaid so these stories are ridiculous and completely unfounded.

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

McCartney asked for "some space and time to get through this difficult period."

Earlier Wednesday, a joint statement issued on behalf of the couple blamed media attention for the split.

"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," it said.

"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," the joint statement said.

One of the last public appearances by the couple -- who have a two-year-old daughter, Beatrice Milly -- was in March when they traveled to Canada to protest the annual seal hunt.

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

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

McCartney and anti-landmines campaigner Mills, 38, married in 2002 in a lavish ceremony at an Irish castle four years after the pop legend's first wife, Linda, died from cancer.

McCartney, who was knighted by the British queen in 1997, is one of the world's richest rock stars. The Sunday Times, in its annual list of Britain's richest people, put his personal fortune at $1.5 billion.

The couple are believed not to have a prenuptial agreement.

Should they divorce, lawyers estimate Mills' share of McCartney's fortune could be between $188 million and $376 million, The Associated Press reported.

"This will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, divorce cases to hit the English courts, if it gets that far," lawyer Alan Kaufman, head of family law at the London firm of Finers Stephens Innocent, told AP.

The Liverpool-born musician and songwriter gained worldwide fame and wealth in the 1960s with the Beatles -- alongside John Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. He penned classics such as "Yesterday," "Hey Jude" and "The Long and Winding Road."

McCartney married photographer Linda Eastman in 1969. The marriage was seen as one of the most successful in show business. The two performed together in the band Wings and famously spent only a handful of days apart.

His second wife, Mills, is a former model who had her left leg amputated below the knee after she was hit by a motorcycle in 1993. Their marriage is widely reported to have caused friction with his children from his first marriage, who include fashion designer daughter Stella.

Mills has been a favorite target of the British tabloid media since she married the music legend.

In a 2003 interview with CNN's Larry King, she said she stopped reading the papers after the first two years of their relationship "because I was really hurt by a lot of things and surprised by a lot of people that you only met once or twice in your life and wanted to make money out of knowing you." (Read transcript of interview)

But she said the public has been supportive of her.

"They (the media) presume that because there are so many Beatles fans, Paul fans, that everyone is going to kind of hate me, you know? But I've got such a huge respectful and dedicated following of people that just want to make a difference. And they shout in the street, 'You ignore those,'" she said.

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