May 28, 2003 01:00 PM

It’s baby time once again for ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, whose bride of nearly a year, former model Heather Mills, is expecting a child later this year, the couple announced Wednesday.

“We are delighted with this happy news,” the couple said in a statement, as reported by Reuters. No further details were given.

The musician has three children and one stepchild from his 29-year marriage to Linda McCartney, who succumbed to breast cancer in 1998, at the age of 56.

In naming McCartney, 60, and Mills, 35, one of its most intriguing couples of 2002, PEOPLE noted that since they became an item in the fall of 1999 — four months after they met at a charity dinner in London and 13 months after Linda McCartney’s death — they’ve become one of the most scrutinized couples in the world.

The British media, in particular, has devoted much space to what PEOPLE calls the “well-publicized tensions” between Mills and McCartney’s adult children: Heather, 40; Mary, 34; Stella, 31; and James, 26.

Possibly most hurtful of all, Mills has been forced to dispel insinuations that she married McCartney for his estimated $1 billion fortune. “It’s the biggest insult to Paul to say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing else a woman would want him for,’ ” she told Vanity Fair. “He’s a very sexy, charismatic man.”

For his part, McCartney, who reportedly refused to allow Mills to sign a prenuptial agreement, ignores the gossip. “I’m not stupid. Heather’s a really nice person, or else I wouldn’t be attracted to her in the least,” he told the magazine. “But you’re going to find people who are going to knock her, because the better story is the negative one.”

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