Source AP ©

Matthew Mellon acquitted of hiring private eye to spy on wife

American banking heir Matthew Mellon was acquitted by a British court of hiring a private detective to illegally snoop into the finances of his estranged wife.

Mellon, 43, was cleared of spying on Tamara Mellon, the woman who built the Jimmy Choo shoe business into a global brand.

He had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to cause unauthorized modification of computer material between July 1, 2004 and Feb. 4 2005.

Prosecutors alleged that Mellon hired a detective agency, Active Investigation Services, to hack into his wife's accounts after they separated. Defense lawyers contended that he had been "duped and gulled" by investigators he had hired to check whether his wife was withholding information.

Matthew Mellon did not give evidence in his own defense during the two-month trial. But his former wife, 38, testified last month that he would have been incapable of hacking into her accounts himself.

Asked whether he would have understood the keystrokes logged by a computer virus, Tamara Mellon said: "Matthew cannot even read a comic, let alone a legal document. There is absolutely no way he could do it."

"Being married to Matthew was like having another child. He can't manage his bank accounts. He can't pay his bills," the shoe supremo told the trial at Southwark Crown Court in London.

Regularly cited as one of London's most stylish couples, the Mellons met a decade ago while both were attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings. They married at Blenheim Palace, one of England's grandest homes, with Elizabeth Hurley and Hugh Grant among the guests.

She initiated divorce proceedings in 2003.

Prosecutors said Tamara Mellon later received e-mails offering information to assist her in her divorce proceedings. "I can help you put this guy in the trash if you want," one e-mail said.

She passed them to her IT specialist, who detected a Trojan virus which would have invaded her computer if she had opened attachments to the e-mails.