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'I am looking for a man who can match me - my friends claim no such man exists'

A meeting with Heather Mills feels rather like being at the centre of a whirlwind as she chats virtually non-stop about a dizzying range of topics including her vegan food range and restaurants, prosthetic limbs - she has one after losing her left leg below the knee in an accident - and her astonishing skiing achievements.

Vivacious, warm, funny and, despite the publicist's warning that the 'M' word - McCartney - must not be mentioned, she's even willing to recall the horrendous fall-out she suffered from her acrimonious divorce from ex-Beatle Paul.

The couple met in 1999 and married in 2002, and their marriage lasted four years until they separated and divorced in 2008. Before and during the legal battle, Mills' reputation was comprehensively trashed in the media and she was called, among other things, 'a gold digger', a 'witch' and a 'liar'.

In 2007, she broke down in tears on TV, claiming she'd been driven "close to suicide" by the criticism.

Today Mills (47) is determined to proclaim a positive outcome from those traumatic times - when, such was the negativity attached to her name that charities including animal rights group Peta, for whom she'd campaigned, reportedly dropped her.

"I'm not bitter about that time, what would be the point?" she says with a dismissive shrug as she chats at the launch of her first VBites restaurant within a Holland & Barrett store. The company stocks her VBites range of vegan food.

Her undoubted gritty determination has helped her carve a new identity - far removed from the vilified ex-wife of a music legend - for herself and her daughter from their marriage, Beatrice (now 11).

The pair divide their time between England - so that Beatrice can spend time with her father (the couple share custody) - and Austria, where Mills can pursue her sporting career. Discovering her talent was one of the legacies of that break from charity campaigning, and Mills recently became the fastest disabled woman on skis. She is ranked 28th in world slalom by the International Paralympic Committee.


"My daughter and I have a wonderful life together," she says, smiling. "If I hadn't had her during those painful times maybe I would have jumped off a cliff, but I had to think of her. She's totally changed my life, is my priority.

"She's such a special kid, really smart, and down-to-earth. I keep her out of the limelight. She sees her dad a lot in England and when we're in Austria, she enjoys total freedom and can walk around unrecognised."

Their idyllic-sounding life - in a remote village in the mountains outside Salzburg -is a complete contrast to Mills' own troubled childhood.

Her father, she claims, was violently abusive and her mother left home when Mills was nine years old.

"My parents were rubbish and I went through really unnecessary things with my brother and sister in our childhood. My aim is to teach my daughter to be empowered and confident and she is really strong," says Mills.

Toned, tanned and glamorous with her blonde pixie crop, Mills has plenty of willing suitors but says these days she's happiest embracing romance rather than marriage.

"I'm very open to falling in love, but I'd never get married again. In my mind that's a legal document that causes a lot of hassle!" she says.

"A lot of my friends are not brave enough to get out of bad relationships . . . they don't want to be alone. I'd rather be alone than lonely in a relationship."

Her ideal man these days, she says, would simply be someone "who considers me an equal and doesn't feel threatened by my success". Her last relationship of six years, which ended two years ago, was with a DJ.

"I'm looking for someone who could match me, but my friends who've known me forever say there's no such man on the planet," she jokes.

Despite the fact she received a lump sum of €23m in the divorce settlement, she says: "Money doesn't drive me at all. It's never been important to me. I gave 80pc of the settlement to charity. I'm not extravagant and we live simply. When I'm skiing, we live in a camper van and that's where I'm happiest," she says.

Instead, she says, her motivation is to prove "having a disability needn't stop you doing anything".


"Skiing makes me feel stable, fluid and weightless. That feeling's priceless when you have a prosthetic leg and have to think about every step you take, and frankly, it's a rare man that can give you the same thrill that going down a mountain at more than 100mph can," she laughs.

"When people say 'skiing is so dangerous - you're taking so many risks', I remind them I'd just returned from the war in Croatia and crossed a road in England when I lost my leg in an accident, so frankly I don't think you can worry about what might happen."

It's remarkably philosophical in view of her catastrophic accident in 1993, when 25-year-old Mills was crossing the road and was hit by a police motorcycle after returning from charity work in Croatia during the war in the former Yugoslavia.

Her leg was severed below the knee.

Whatever twists and turns her life takes, on or off the slopes, Mills believes she can cope.

"My aim now is to go to my grave knowing I used every aspect of myself, my body and my mind.

"It may mean I go out battered and bruised, but I'll feel like I lived my life."