Monty Python star John Cleese has accused the country’s most high-profile divorce lawyer of wasting thousands of pounds of his money on private detectives to find out where he was living, according to the Mail.
Cleese says Fiona Shackleton, who advised his former wife during his divorce, hired private investigators to track him down to a London hotel so that his personal assistant Garry Scott-Irvine could be served with legal papers. Mr Scott-Irvine was staying with him at the time.
But the veteran actor says his whereabouts were well known after he had separated from his third wife, American Alyce Faye Eichelberger, in 2008.
And the Fawlty Towers creator complains the use of a private investigator bumped up the final legal bill of £1.25 million. As part of the settlement, Cleese paid his own and his ex-wife’s costs.
The 71-year-old star said: ‘That summer they wanted to serve a document on Garry, saying that he was going to have to testify in the United States, which we knew he was going to do.
Alyce Faye and her lawyer had his email address, so they could have said, “Where are you so that we can serve this document on you?” But instead, Alyce Faye’s lawyer hired Fiona Shackleton and Fiona Shackleton hired a private detective.
“It was an example of something that happened all the way through. You felt that the lawyers were quite deliberately spending as much
of my money as they could. Why? Because they could.”
In September 2008, several months after separating from Ms Eichelberger, Cleese moved into the Covent Garden Hotel in Central London.
Mr Scott-Irvine was served with the papers on September 18th.
Cleese said: “Everybody connected with me and Garry knew we were there. So it could have been done in an instant with no cost at all. But they hired a private detective because it meant three people got fees and, of course, I paid for them.”
Sources close to Baroness Shackleton, who famously represented Prince Charles, Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney in their divorces, confirmed that she may have employed a private investigator but insisted this was only to serve papers, not to find Cleese.
However, Mr Scott-Irvine said the lawyer’s bill clearly identified two figures – one for the cost of a process server and one for a private investigator. “In any case, it was awful lot of money just to serve some legal papers,” he said.
Cleese’s divorce, finalised in the United States in 2009, cost him £12 million which he says he is still paying for. He said he did not complain about the costs aspect at the time because he did not know what was being charged by his wife’s lawyers until the bill arrived.
Ms Shackleton was made a Tory peer last December, taking the title Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia.
She has a fearsome reputation and is known in legal circles as the Steel Magnolia. During McCartney’s divorce battle with Heather Mills she famously had a jug of water poured over her head in the High Court by Ms Mills.
Baroness Shackleton also advised on Cleese’s pre-nuptial agreement before he married Ms Eichelberger in 1992, charging up to £40,000.
A source close to Baroness Shackleton said last night that there was no question of a private investigator being hired to find Cleese, but an investigator was employed to act only as a process server to satisfy the formal procedure required in a case involving service in a foreign jurisdiction.
It is also understood that psychotherapist Ms Eichelberger, 66, was happy with all the advice she received from Baroness Shackleton. Cleese is now dating jewellery designer Jennifer Wade, who is 31 years his junior.