Stephen and Elaine Hawking on their wedding day in 1995
Hawking and second wife agree to divorce
Prof Stephen Hawking is to divorce for a second time.
The author of the best-selling A Brief History of Time was said to be "too busy" to comment yesterday on the end of the marriage to the woman whose first husband invented the voice synthesiser that he uses.
"This is just a distraction, which is really annoying," Judith Croadsell, his secretary, said of the divorce. "We don't have time for any of this."
A source close to the family strenuously denied a tabloid report that the break-up was caused by Prof Hawking, 64, having an affair. "That is complete and utter libellous rubbish," he said.
Prof Hawking, who was struck down with motor neurone disease when he was 22, married Elaine in 1995 after he had left Jane Hawking, his wife of 26 years and mother of his three children.
His marriage to Elaine produced some bizarre headlines, not least in 2004 when it emerged that former nurses looking after the scientist reported their suspicions to police that Mrs Hawking was physically and emotionally abusing her husband.
Jane Hawking issued a statement saying that "the revelations have made me feel ill".
She added: "He is a special man and vulnerable man but, when his children see the aftermath of these events, they can only tell him he must do something about it."
Cambridge police confirmed that they were investigating allegations of assault and would be speaking to his wife. In the midst of the inquiry, Prof Hawking, who was in hospital with pneumonia, issued a statement through Cambridge University saying that the allegations were completely false. In the wake of this, and in the absence of any other evidence, police dropped the case.
However, stories continued to emerge with another nurse claiming that, when new staff were employed at the house in Newnham to care for the professor, his wife would call them into the bedroom while the couple were having sex.
Mrs Hawking has moved out of the large detached house the couple shared in the heart of Cambridge, although she returned briefly yesterday for a meeting with lawyers over the divorce case.
Prof Hawking, who receives 24-hour care from a team of nurses, later kept an appointment at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge.
He still works full time at the university's department of applied mathematics and theoretical physics and is to star in a film about his ideas on the origins of the universe.
Since its publication in 1988 A Brief History of Time has sold 10 million copies and is believed to have earned Prof Hawking about £4 million.