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Stephen Hawking suspected to be abused by his second wife Elaine

'She calls him a cripple and an invalid' Is celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking being abused by his second wife -- as people close to his first wife claim? The physicist, between broken bones and blackened eyes, insists all is well. The Globe and Mail – Saturday, February 14, 2004 A dismal tale that has been simmering in the British press finally came to a boil last week, when police in this university town accused one of its most famous residents, Stephen Hawking, and his second wife, Elaine, of interfering with their investigations.

Ending weeks of adamant refusals, Professor Hawking promised to meet detectives to discuss the string of unexplained injuries that have repeatedly landed him in the emergency ward, including bruises, cuts, broken bones and blackened eyes. Claims that he is an abused husband have cropped up by the score in newspapers.

The scandal is a far cry from the idyll Cambridge presents to the visitor. In February, daffodils erupt in the spring sun. On the immaculate "backs" -- the close-mown lawns that unroll like broadloom behind the colleges -- strollers keep to the gravel paths under the furious gaze of college porters, vigilant for the barest toe of a shoe straying onto the forbidden grass. Crocuses and hyacinth peep out everywhere, and the first, creamy buds are fattening on the branches of magnolias. Over everything floats the scent of privilege. The rapturous, fairy-tale architecture of such colleges as Clare, Kings and Peterhouse shelters one of the most cosseted academic communities in the world. It is a place where a college's wine cellar may be as famous as its library. The master's lodge is a little palace, and the fellows are its court. Novelists have feasted on this rich milieu, close to the heart of the British establishment, into which Stephen Hawking sailed 40 years ago as a brilliant young cosmologist.

No sooner had his career blossomed than it seemed doomed. At 22, Prof. Hawking was diagnosed with motor neuron disease -- the term for a group of related afflictions that attack the nerve cells that transmit the brain's instructions to the muscles. Degeneration of the motor neurons leads to weakness and wasting. Doctors gave Prof. Hawking 14 months to live. In spite of this, a 20-year-old language student named Jane Wilde fell in love and married him. Not only did the young professor survive, but the couple went on to have three children. Prof. Hawking's audacious theoretical physics catapulted him into a fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, and ultimately, one of the loftiest honours in British academics -- the Lucasian chair of mathematics, once occupied by Isaac Newton. Prof. Hawking's profile exploded into popular view with the 1988 publication of A Brief History of Time. It was his "ideas on space and time," one chronicler wrote, "and the single, unified 'theory of everything' which led him to make his most famous pronouncement on knowing the mind of God. It was the sheer unfathomableness of his ideas that propelled him to A-list celebrity status."

This ménage was soon complicated by the entry of another figure, Elaine Mason. Her husband, David, was the engineer who designed the keyboard-operated device that produces the robotic voice-tones with which Hawking now communicates. She became Prof. Hawking's companion, and the two formed a close bond.

But while his public life shone, his private life was failing. In her autobiography, Music to Move the Stars, Jane Hawking described her marriage to an "all-powerful emperor" and a "masterly puppeteer." Caring for her husband, she wrote, had become more onerous in 1985 when the progress of his disease forced him to undergo a tracheotomy that left him unable to breathe unaided. Emotionally exhausted, Jane began an affair, apparently with Prof. Hawking's consent. Her lover was a family friend, choirmaster Jonathan Hellyer-Jones.

Prof. Hawking made a cameo appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation, pictured in a poker game with Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton. Another broadcast found him seated at a bar with Homer Simpson, where Prof. Hawking told the cartoon character that he liked Homer's concept of a doughnut-shaped universe. Prof. Hawking visited Bill Clinton at the White House and counted movie stars among his friends. A Brief History of Time sold 25 million copies, and Prof. Hawking's personal fortune grew to more than $20-million.

After Prof. Hawking's rapid ascent to celebrity, Elaine began to accompany the scientist on his frequent travels. According to published accounts, he grew to believe that she was the single person who had his interests most at heart. This conviction turned to infatuation, and finally romance. Jane Hawking grew suspicious. She told a friend at the time that when she phoned her husband while he was abroad, she was told by Elaine, "How dare you call? This is my personal time with Stephen." Despite her own affair, family members have said Jane was devastated when Prof. Hawking told her in 1989 that he was leaving her. Elaine and Prof. Hawking married in 1995. The first rumours that he was being battered surfaced four years ago, when he was admitted to hospital with a broken wrist, black eyes, facial cuts and a torn lip. But Prof. Hawking insisted that he had fallen from his wheelchair, and refused to be interviewed by the Cambridgeshire police.

His claim was plausible, as Prof. Hawking is notorious for careering around the streets of Cambridge in his motorized chair. Two years ago, just before his 60th birthday, he ended up in the emergency ward with a broken hip. Soon after, at a lecture called Sixty Years in a Nutshell, organized by Cambridge to celebrate his birthday, Prof. Hawking joked to his audience, "It was nearly 59.97 years in a nutshell." He said, "I had an argument with a wall, and the wall won." No one is laughing now.

Chris Wilde, brother of Jane (who is now married to Mr. Hellyer-Jones), described an incident he witnessed at a family party three years ago: "I think Elaine thought no one was looking," he told The Sunday Times, "and she grabbed his hair and spun his head around 180 degrees. My wife and I both saw it and it was a chilling moment."

The mass-circulation tabloid Daily Mirror tracked down one of Prof. Hawking's former nurses, who said she had seen Elaine leave a three-inch gash on the physicist's throat after he had been shaved, and that last year, during a record-breaking summer heat spell, he had suffered heatstroke and sunburn after having been abandoned in the garden of his Cambridge home.

As the tide of speculation rose, Prof. Hawking was in hospital with an unrelated case of pneumonia. He issued a defiant statement: "I firmly and wholeheartedly reject the allegations that I have been assaulted. The stories in the media are completely false and I am profoundly disappointed by the circulation of such personal and inaccurate information. My wife and I love each other very much and it is only because of her that I am alive today." The clamour only worsened. The police, who had previously identified the subject of their investigation as an unnamed "62-year-old man," admitted that it was Prof. Hawking, and revealed that they intended to interview him "alone, and without his wife present."

On Wednesday, Elaine Hawking's younger sister, Jane Golds-worthy, also a nurse, went public to deny vehemently that Elaine had ever injured her husband, saying her sister was ready to answer the allegations in court and had no designs on Prof. Hawking's fortune. "This whole thing has been like a bad detective novel. It would be comical but for the fact that the police seem actually to believe this nonsense."

Most of the allegations have been made by people close to Prof. Hawking's ex-wife, who might be expected to bear a grudge against the second Mrs. Hawking. Other accusations have been attributed to former caregivers. "She calls him a cripple and an invalid," a nurse claimed. "The verbal abuse is unbelievable. Her mouth is like a sewer. She is always so angry."

Among the allegations appearing in print were that Elaine had fractured Prof. Hawking's wrist by slamming it against his wheelchair; refused him a urine bottle, leaving him to wet himself; and allowed him to slide down so low in the bath that water entered his breathing hole.

The Hawkings' tense relations with police escalated into acrimony when detectives discovered that the Hawkings had written to nurses and other caregivers asking them to sign a "statement of support" prepared by the couple's lawyer. "It is outrageous," one policeman said. "They seem to have decided to do our investigation for us." "He is a proud and stubborn man," a close friend said. "It is the same obstinacy that has kept him alive. But on these injuries, he has steadfastly refused to do anything about it and we just don't dare think about what could come next."

Last weekend, Prof. Hawking's condition improved enough for him to leave hospital, and police say they will interview him as soon as he is able.