The Times

September 10 1999

McEwan's former wife twisted the truth, says judge

BY TIM JONES AND MICHAEL HARVEY
The Times

THE former wife of the novelist Ian McEwan was described in court yesterday as "a purveyor of half-truths, twisted information, inaccuracies and false inferences".

Penny Allen, 51, a healer, astrologer and clairvoyant, was also said to be a self-centred woman who had conducted a vitriolic campaign against Mr McEwan since their divorce in 1995.

The comments were made by a judge in the couple's custody battle and were revealed yesterday on the orders of Mr Justice Charles in the High Court in London. He issued an injunction preventing Mrs Allen from commenting on Mr McEwan's conduct and allowed details from the custody proceedings to be revealed as a balance to allegations she has made about the novelist over the past year.

Mrs Allen and her lover, Ismay Tremain, were not in court yesterday when Mr Justice Charles also banned them from disclosing anything about the conduct, wishes or behaviour of the children or from publicising any information about the case.

Mr McEwan, 51, who sat in court with his wife, the journalist Annalena McAfee, returned to England last weekend after travelling to France to secure the return of his younger son, 13. Under the terms of a contact order, the boy should have travelled back to his father's Oxford home from his mother's farmhouse in Brittany in mid-August, but he was returned to Mr McEwan only after the intervention of the French courts and police.

Philip Cayford, counsel for the author, read out several comments made by Judge Paul Clark at Oxford County Court during the divorce and custody proceedings.

The High Court was told how Judge Clark had said: "Sadly, I am driven to finding that Ms Allen has conducted a vitriolic campaign against Mr McEwan since the hearing in 1995. He incurred costs of about £130,000 in the 1995 proceedings, and I am told that since the proceedings recommenced at the latter end of last year his costs have been about £50,000, both these sums mostly attributable to the way that Ms Allen has put her case. When thwarted by him or others she has not hesitated to make trouble - witness her 'press releases' in various articles in the press earlier this year."

Judge Clark had said that, on the other hand, he had found Mr McEwan, when repeatedly faced with such tactics from Mrs Allen, to be a "model of courtesy and restraint".

Mr Cayford said that during Mrs Allen's divorce petition, Judge Clark had noted: "The impression I formed is that the wife is a woman who may well have given great assistance to other troubled souls in her professional capacity, but at the same time she has considerable problems of her own, not all of which can rightly be ascribed to her husband."

After that hearing, the judge made a joint residence order, allowing the 13-year old and his brother, who turns 16 today, to divide their time equally between their parents.

Earlier this year, when Mrs Allen said that she intended to remove the boys from their school and take them to live with her and Mr Tremain in France, the judge ordered that, because of her conduct, they must live with their father, although she could have access.

Judge Clark said at the time: "I am quite satisfied at having heard and read the mother's outpourings, she is at times more governed by her emotions than her intellect. I find her to be self-centred, expecting everybody else to accept what she says."

But the court was told that the judge also found that, however bizarre and unconventional her ideas were about some things, there was no question about her love for her children.

He added: "Her life may lack the glamour of a decade ago when she was the wife of a successful novelist and money no object."

However, he said, Mrs Allen had gained her revenge on Mr McEwan in 1995 with the enormous costs involved in fighting the shared residence order.

At the beginning of last month, it was revealed yesterday, Mr McEwan received threatening and taunting telephone calls from Mr Tremain and obtained orders preventing him or Mrs Allen from molesting or harassing him.

Mr Cayford said that Mr McEwan hoped the hearing would bring an end to the publicity and speculation generated by the case, which could only do harm to the children.

At the divorce hearing, Judge Clark referred to Mr McEwan's extraordinarily good relationship with his children, describing it as unusually sensitive and understanding. But of Mrs Allen he said: "In one particular regard I have formed an unfavourable view of Ms Allen, namely as a creditable and accurate witness, but this has had little or no bearing on my decisions on what is best for the children."

Last night Mrs Allen was back at her Brittany farmhouse. She and her boyfriend attended the High Court on Tuesday wearing gags to symbolise her situation.

Copyright 1999, Times Newspapers Ltd.