Birmingham MP John Hemming has broken his silence over the trial of his wife Christine and revealed his hopes that she would avoid jail for stealing a kitten from the home of his mistress.

In a statement issued to the Birmingham Post, Mr Hemming said he did not think locking her up would be of any benefit to anyone.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Yardley also dismissed his wife's famous allegation that he had enjoyed about 26 affairs and claimed the couple's marriage effectively ended in 1997 when Christine walked out on him.

She is due to be sentenced this month after being found guilty of burgling former Birmingham councillor Emily Cox's home in Church Road, Moseley, in September last year.

Miss Cox is the mother of Mr Hemming's young daughter, to whom the kitten, Beauty, belonged. He also has three children from his 30-year marriage.

Speaking in detail for the first time since his wife's trial last month, Mr Hemming admitted it had been a challenge maintaining two relationships.

He said he supported the decision to arrest 53-year-old Christine over the kitten's disappearance but did not want her locked up.

Mr Hemming said: "My wife took Emily's kitten in September 2010 and, having initially kept it at her home, she then put it through a fence in Sparkhill about a mile from Emily's house. We have not seen the kitten since then.

"I supported referring the theft of the kitten to the police because I felt it was necessary to stop my wife from feeling she was free to trespass in Emily's garden at will.

"I was aware there would be media attention in the story but my priority was protecting Emily and our daughter from any potential further harm.

"I do not think, however, that imprisoning my wife would be of any benefit to anyone."

CCTV footage of the incident, played to the jury at Christines trial, at Birmingham Crown Court, showed her crawling across Miss Cox's garden under the cover of darkness and leaving via the back door with Beauty tucked beneath her arm.

In his closing address to jurors, Jason Pegg, prosecuting, called the evidence "compelling" and told them: "You are not having to judge morality in this case."

The case was the latest occasion on which details of Mr Hemming's tangled private life have been publicly-aired.

Six years ago, Christine branded his behaviour "disgraceful and outrageous" after learning Miss Cox was pregnant with his child.

Emily is one of about 26 people he has had affairs with, she said at the time.

But Mr Hemming told the Birmingham Post that the allegation was a much-repeated myth although he admitted he was unfaithful before his wife walked out on him.

He said his wife had effectively ended the couple's marriage when she left him and that he tried to keep up relationships with Christine and Miss Cox for the sake of his children.

He said: "I made the decision to try to maintain two relationships simultaneously.

"This is not to be recommended for an easy life, however I take the view that it is particularly worthwhile trying to maintain relationships when there are young children involved."

Mr Hemming claimed that, when his wife returned to their Moseley home, she served judicial separation papers on him, they slept in separate bedrooms, and agreed that each could pursue other relationships.

But he said matters became even more complex when he began seeing Miss Cox just as his relationship with his wife began to improve.

Mr Hemming's statement said: "Whilst working away in Huddersfield in the middle of the 1990s, my wife rekindled her friendship with a man she knew from university. In 1997, just before we were to take our children on holiday, my wife decided to go to live with that man in Liverpool.

"I took the children off on holiday without her. My wife did not spend long with her friend. However, the act of going to live with someone else effectively ended the marriage."

Although a financial settlement was agreed, divorce proceedings did not go ahead.

Mr Hemming added: "My wife and I agreed a postnuptial agreement on finances which meant that our finances would be separated and set out what would happen if we divorced. We have, since 1997, operated separate financial arrangements."

Christine Hemming would not comment on her husband's statement.

> Next page: John Hemming's full statement to the Birmingham Post >


 

John Hemming's full statement to the Birmingham Post:

There was intense media interest in the trial relating to the theft of my daughter’s kitten; indeed it received far more coverage than the three murder trials in Birmingham Crown Court during the same week.

I was not called to give evidence in the trial, and to date I have not commented on the broader issues involved. However, now that the dust has settled on the trial, I wish to correct some of the inaccuracies in reports.

A much-repeated myth is that I have had 26 mistresses. I have not.

I met my wife in 1979 and we married in 1981. We had our first child in 1990 and our second child in 1993. Our marriage went through some stresses. I was not perfect and I was unfaithful.

Whilst working away in Huddersfield in the middle of the 1990s my wife rekindled her friendship with a man she knew from university. In 1997, just before we were to take our children on holiday, my wife decided to go to live with that man in Liverpool.

I took the children off on holiday without her. My wife did not spend long with her friend. However, the act of going to live with someone else effectively ended the marriage.

I then started looking for a new girlfriend. My wife, however, returned and we remained in the same house living in separate bedrooms and agreed in writing that we would be likely to pursue other relationships. She then served judicial separation papers on me.

I had by that time entered into a new relationship. I remained, however, in the marital home and although we agreed a financial settlement, the divorce proceeding did not conclude. However, my wife and I agreed a post-nuptial agreement on finances which meant that our finances would be separated and set out what would happen if we divorced. We have, since 1997, operated separate financial arrangements.

My new relationship broke down in early 1999 and, in the May, I entered into a relationship with Emily Cox. Although at this point we were still intending to get a divorce, things got complex as my relationship with my wife improved.

I made the decision to try to maintain two relationships simultaneously. This has been a challenge and is not to be recommended for an easy life, however I take the view that it is particularly worthwhile trying to maintain relationships when there are young children involved.

My wife was clearly aware of my relationship with Emily Cox. It is not, however, the case that Emily replaced my wife as a staff member. My wife left my employment in 1997 and Emily did not become an employee until 1999.

In 2009 I sold an interest in a business venture and transferred that money to Emily to buy her house. At this point I had been operating separate finances from my wife for 12 years with a post-nuptial agreement in place which means that this would not affect what my wife would get in a divorce.

However, my wife was unhappy that I had assisted Emily in buying the property. Over a period of a month she cut two holes in the hedge with secateurs and went in and out of the garden on a number of occasions.

In early April 2010 she attacked Emily with the secateurs, was arrested by the police and given a caution.

Despite the caution, my wife took Emily’s kitten in September 2010 and, having initially kept it at her home in Chantry Road, she then put it through a fence in Sparkhill about a mile from Emily’s house. We have not seen the kitten since then.

I supported referring the theft of the kitten to the police because I felt it was necessary to stop my wife from feeling she was free to trespass in Emily’s garden at will.

I was aware there would be media attention in the story, but my priority was protecting Emily and our daughter from any potential further harm.

I do not think, however, that imprisoning my wife would be of any benefit to anyone.