THE affair between James Gray and Philippa Mayo is taking its toll on both families involved.

From the outside, the Mayo family seemed to have everything. Husband Rupert Mayo is a criminal barrister and Recorder.

The couple have three children, a 14-year-old son and two daughters aged 12 and nine.

They live on an idyllic 100-acre farm in a village in Leicestershire, which Mr Mayo bought around ten years ago and lovingly restored.

The children had ponies and Mrs Mayo kept horses so she could hunt with the Cottesmore Hunt, of which her husband is chairman.

It was through her voluntary work with the Vote Okay campaign group, which lobbies to protect the countryside, that she met Mr Gray, in February 2005, when he was a member of the standing committee for the Hunting Bill.

According to a family friend, Mr Mayo first became suspicious his wife was having an affair around Christmas 2005.

They said he was suspicious of her nights and days away, furtive mobile phone calls and text messages.

Another friend said: "Rupert found some text messages and they were fairly unequivocal, shall we say.'' The friend said it was the spring when Mr Mayo raised his concerns, and after initial denials his wife admitted she had had an affair but claimed it was over.

She told him the other party was James Gray.

"First there was a flat denial, then she admitted something was going on and that the other man was James Gray,'' said the friend.

Mr Mayo kept the matter quiet from the rest of his family, but he realised the affair had not been broken off and decided if the affair was still going on at the end of the summer they would separate.

"She was brutally honest,'' said the friend. She said James Gray still loved her and she did not love her husband any more.

"At the end of the summer holiday they sat the children down. She admitted it was 90 per cent her fault.'' Mr Mayo was left heartbroken by her decision, according to the family friend, and was angry with Mr Gray for wrecking his family life.

Two weeks ago, in the aftermath of the break-up, Mr Mayo sat down and wrote a letter, to explain to the rest of his family what had happened.

Mr Mayo has told his friends that the other party is Mr Gray.

"People haven't heard of him but they have looked him up on Google,'' said a friend.

A source close to Mr Gray's wife Sarah said she had had no idea what was going on.

"She was not aware the marriage was breaking down till she found out about the affair three weeks ago,'' the source said.