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Cheryl Cole separates from footballer husband Ashley

Cheryl Cole has separated from her footballer husband Ashley Cole after three-and-a-half years of marriage.

The singer and X Factor judge released a statement through her publicist. The split follows allegations that her husband, the England and Chelsea footballer, has been unfaithful.

"Cheryl Cole is separating from her husband Ashley Cole. Cheryl asks the media to respect her privacy during this difficult time. We have no further comment to make," the statement said.

The 26-year-old flew back to the UK this morning after spending several days in Los Angeles. She performed at the Brit Awards last week minus her wedding ring.

The final straw for the Girls Aloud singer came at the weekend, when an American local government worker, Ann Corbitt, told a newspaper she had sex with Cole in a hotel during Chelsea's pre-season tour in Seattle last July.

It emerged that Cole, 29, had used a Chelsea club executive to prevent a newspaper investigation into the alleged affair. Steve Atkins, the club's head of communications, contacted Miss Corbitt and offered to provide media and legal coaching for her to deny the story. Mr Atkins said he was acting in good faith after being told that nothing had happened between the pair.

Ten days ago, an embarrassing picture of Cole dressed only in underpants was printed in a tabloid newspaper. It had been sent to Sonia Wild, a topless model.

The footballer admitted taking the intimate photograph of himself on a mobile phone but claimed he had then passed the phone on to a friend. "I can't believe that I gave a phone away that still had stuff on its memory. I thought I had deleted it," he said.

The stage is now set for a costly divorce over the couple's £17m (€19m) fortune.

© Telegraph.co.uk