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Revealed: MSP's history of violence against three ex-wives

A SNP MSP who welcomed a cash injection for Women's Aid has been suspended over claims he hit three former wives and a teenage step-daughter.

The Sunday Herald yesterday presented the SNP with evidence that two of Bill Walker's former spouses got undefended divorces after alleging he assaulted them.

Another wife has claimed that Walker punched and kicked her in a San Diego hotel room, an attack she said was repeated on a family holiday.

Walker, the Nationalist MSP for Dunfermline who was elected in 2011, last month welcomed the news that Fife Women's Aid had received a £400,000 lottery grant.

He said: "They do brilliant work, and it's great to see significant funding supporting their service, enabling them to keep aiding abused women in Dunfermline and Fife."

However, despite his public support for the charity, Walker is at the centre of domestic abuse allegations spanning nearly four decades, from the late 1960s up to the early 1990s.

This newspaper's investigation is based on open court documents in the National Archives and interviews with two of the wives, both of whom supplied affidavits.

Jenny Kemp, the co-ordinator at Zero Tolerance, a charity that tackles the causes of men's violence against women, said: "These allegations are shocking and suggest that Mr Walker is not fit to be an MSP.

"The SNP needs to examine how its selection procedures allowed him to become an MSP despite this record of abusive behaviour."

Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour's justice spokeswoman, said: "There is never any possible excuse for domestic abuse.

"It is a vile, sickening offence and it is unacceptable for women or children to be abused or assaulted in the very place they should feel safest.

FIRST WIFE'S STORY"

BILL Walker's first wife divorced him after claiming he assaulted her and struck in her the face while she was wearing glasses, according to court documents.

The files reveal that the woman, who the Sunday Herald has chosen not to name, signed a statement on oath swearing the allegation to be true.

Walker was born in Edinburgh in 1942 and will celebrate his 70th birthday this month. Although an engineer, his love of politics and the SNP led to him being elected as a Nationalist councillor in Fife in 2007.

This was followed by him being returned as the party's MSP for Dunfermline at last year's historic Holyrood poll.

Although Walker achieved political success in his seventh decade, his personal life has been marked by controversy.

Wed for the fourth time last year at Culross Abbey, he is facing serious questions about the break-up of his three previous marriages.

Aged 24 at the time, Walker married his first wife in Edinburgh in 1967, the year of Winnie Ewing's famous by-election victory in Hamilton.

The newly-weds left the capital and lived together in the United States and France.

However, their happy times together were short-lived, as Walker's wife filed for divorce less than three years into the marriage.

Open files in the National Archives of Scotland, which can be ordered and inspected by any member of the public, reveal his first wife's reasons for divorce.

She pursued the divorce on the grounds of his alleged cruelty towards her, a legal bid that was not defended by Walker.

The divorce went ahead.

SECOND WIFE'S STORY"

BILL Walker's second wife was granted a divorce from her husband after she accused him of multiple assaults.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, the MSP's former spouse has confirmed she stands by court documents which allege he:

l Punched her in the face and tore up her communion card

l Pushed her with such force she had to be hospitalised

l Threw household items and poured orange juice over her

It can also be revealed Walker admitted striking his second wife, but only after she had become "hysterical".

In the past, he also confirmed hitting his teenage step-daughter – his wife's daughter from a previous relationship – with a saucepan, but claimed he did so only after she hit him. Walker married his second wife in Edinburgh in 1970, just months after his divorce from his first wife was finalised. The couple lived in Midlothian and the capital and had three children in a marriage which lasted about 16 years.

However, open court documents in the National Archives show that Walker's second wife divorced him after alleging unreasonable behaviour. The action was not defended and the woman got custody of the three children.

Now, more than two decades on from the divorce, Walker's second wife said she "absolutely" stands by the assault allegations she made at the time, which included punches and other acts of violence.

Speaking exclusively to this newspaper, the former teacher said she and her husband were happy for around seven years of their marriage.

However, she said Walker's behaviour altered between 1977 and 1978, a period that was followed by separation and attempts at reconciliation.

"I think he changed. I know people don't change terribly much, but it seemed to me that after we had been married about seven years he seemed to change," she recalled.

"He actually said to me that when he met [an] American woman, that was the catalyst. Maybe he realised he changed as well."

She said that, although they separated after he asked her to leave the family home, they had already started to live their own lives while under the same roof.

She recalled one incident, when they were living in Lasswade, where he allegedly punched her.

She said: "The baby was in a small pram in the room with me. He came in, he'd been out at that Lasswade Inn of whatever they call it- I'm feeding the baby and he comes in and tells me, 'I want us to be separated and then divorced.'"

She continued: "He was cooing over the baby in the pram. I said, 'Don't call him son, you are not worthy of the name father'.

"I was in bed and he smashed me in the face."

She recalled another incident in a laundry area in a house they lived in, in The Grange, Edinburgh.

She said: "There was a step down to it [the laundry]. He pushed me, so that I fell and hit the back of my head - it was quite a force."

She added: "By this time I had put up with quite a lot of physical stuff.

"I remember going to pick up the children at school with a black eye and having to make up excuses about walking into cupboards and things."

After the push into the laundry, she said she went to the police, who took her to hospital.

She said: "I was terrified, came home, and he was sleeping quite peacefully. He didn't give a damn."

Asked why she had agreed to speak about her ex-husband after so long, she said it was because he was now an MSP.

She said: "I just don't think somebody like that should be elected. I think the electorate have a right to know who they are voting for.

"I just don't feel that he is the kind of person who should be in the position he is, where people listen to his opinions. As my step-mother said, if he stepped into a pile of dung, he'd come up smelling of roses."

His second wife was also angered by Walker's recent support for Fife Women's Aid receiving lottery money. She said: "How dare he, when he's a perpetrator? It just made me very angry." Although the couple's marriage formally ended in 1986, she had twice abandoned previous attempts at divorce,

In the second divorce action, also documented in the National Archives, Walker's solicitor responded in the summons: "The pursuer is extremely highly strung emotionally and is of a volatile nature.

"The defender has on occasions struck her when she has become hysterical and has attempted to stop her shouting and screaming abuse at him in front of the children."

Walker has also admitted striking his second wife's daughter. In a child access case in the late 1980s involving Walker and his third wife's son, his step-daughter alleged in an affidavit that he hit her repeatedly with a saucepan in 1978.

In his own legal response, Walker said his step-daughter landed an "upper cut" to his jaw after she feared he was going to hit her mother with the pan.

It was in this atmosphere, he said, that: "I admit that I reacted and hit her over the head with the pan. I have no recollection of knocking her down."

third wife's story

BILL Walker's third wife said he beat her with a metal coat hanger during a business trip to the United States.

In an interview with the Sunday Herald, the former spouse said he also went "berserk" and attacked her on holiday with her parents.

She said her former husband was guilty of hypocrisy for welcoming Women's Aid funding and was not "right for office".

Walker married for the third time in 1988 about two years after his second divorce.

The couple lived in Blairlogie, a village in Stirlingshire, and then near Alloa.

A teacher, as was Walker's second wife, his third spouse said that marrying the future MSP was the biggest mistake of her life and alleged the violence began before they exchanged their vows.

"The first time he really laid into me was at a wedding reception before we were married. It must have been around 1987," she said.

"We went to the hotel, we didn't know anyone ... He decided he wanted to leave early on in the evening. I didn't do anything. We got in the lift and he literally smacked me one in the lift."

Asked how much forced he used, she said: "Loads of force. Bear in mind I'm 5ft 1in and he's 6ft 2in."

She said: "I thought, 'well, he'll change, he's not always going to be like that'."

However, she said Walker's treatment escalated after the marriage. Asked if he hit her, she said: "Yes, slap me, punch me, shout at me. He used to tell me all the time I was fat, I was ugly, not all the time but sometimes." She said the worst was on a business trip to San Diego in November 1989.

Walker's employer, Dynatech Corporation, put on seminars for staff while leisure activities were organised for the spouses. A cocktail party was arranged for one of the evenings, after which dancing took place.

She recalled: "Later on, all his colleagues including some of his bosses [were] saying, 'We are going to go to the disco or another part of the hotel. Would you like to come?'. No, he didn't want to go. And I said something like 'well, I want to go'."

She said Walker got his way and they went up to the bedroom: "As soon as we got into the room, he just went completely berserk ... He started punching me, kicking me, hitting me, got a metal coat hanger and beat me with that, ripped my dress off. I was screaming."

Eventually, two security guards came to the door and asked what was going on. She said she persuaded them from taking action because she was embarrassed.

The next major incident, she said, was on a family holiday in Corsica, when she wanted to continue a walk around the harbour and he didn't.

"We'd been for a meal, walking around the harbour, and mum and dad, being older than me maybe, wanted to go back to the hotel. I said 'that's fine mum', but I'd like to continue walking round the harbour, go for a drink somewhere, or have a look at the sights and everything. He decided no. We were not doing that. It was my holiday as much as his. So he must have thought, 'I'm not going to let her get away with this one'."

Walker's ex-wife said he again went "berserk" in the bedroom: "Just completely flipped ... slapped, a few punches, ripped my clothes off. I think I had to throw that dress out actually. And then expecting it all to be fine in the morning, when I had to go and meet mum and dad at breakfast time. Of course, I didn't tell mum and dad. I was too embarrassed."

She said she eventually left home about 1994, but returned to lead separate lives under the same roof. The former spouse finally left him for good in 1996 and the couple divorced two years later.

She said she never mentioned the allegations of violence during divorce proceedings: "I wanted it done quick. I wanted rid of him."

Asked how she would describe Walker, she said: "He likes to be in control. He likes everything to go his own way. As far as I'm concerned, he's not a man. If you are a man, you don't hit women."

On his public support for Women's Aid, she said: "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw that."

A friend of the second wife confirmed that she was notified of the San Diego incident soon after it happened. "She went to America and said he hit her when she was there," the friend recalls. "She was so embarrassed she didn't go to the hospital."

In 1991, a newspaper article on a child access case reported that Walker had hit his third wife. It quoted him saying it had been a "one-off incident." Walker's solicitor sent a five-page letter to the Press Complaints Commission about various aspects of the article, but the quote on hitting his third wife was not challenged. The PCC rejected the complaint.

Walker has since married for a fourth time.

SNP REACTION

THE SNP last night suspended Bill Walker following the Sunday Herald investigation into his alleged treatment of his former wives. The party took the decision after this newspaper confronted Walker with allegations that he hit three former spouses and a step-daughter.

Last night, a spokesman for the party said: "The allegations relate to events many years ago, before Mr Walker entered politics. They are clearly very serious, and the SNP's strong and consistent position is one of zero tolerance of violence against women.

"No such information was reported in Mr Walker's candidate process, as is required of all prospective candidates, and therefore we have suspended Mr Walker from both the party and the parliamentary group pending a full investigation of the facts and circumstances.''

BILL WALKER'S REACTION

Bill Walker released his own personal statement after being contacted by the Sunday Herald.

It stated: "There are two sides to every story and I dispute almost entirely all the allegations that have been made against me. That is not to say that I do not greatly regret individual occasions, during the break-up of my marriages."

He added: "These relationships ended some considerable time ago and, not least for the sake of my children and wider family, I do not intend to replay those disputes publicly.

"My support for organisations assisting women stems from my recognition of the difficulties in some marriages and relationships. My wife and I have now been together for 16 years."

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