Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi's unhappy marriage laid bare
Published 20/12/2013 | 13:34
It was a case about two PAs defrauding their employers so they could splash out on designer labels - but that was a sideshow in what became a courtroom drama about the end of a turbulent marriage.
Isleworth Crown Court was transformed into a battleground where newly-divorced Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi's life together was laid bare for all to see.
Through their evidence about the Grillo sisters, the world was given a glimpse into the less-than-perfect marriage between the two high-profile figures, and left to wonder whether they were on Team Cupcake or Team Saatchi.
The jury heard details of an apparently miserable partnership in which multi-millionaire art dealer Mr Saatchi was in total control and had a temper to go with it.
Described as "two devouring animals" during legal argument, he and Ms Lawson each put forward their own side of the story during their appearances in the witness box.
Self-styled domestic goddess Ms Lawson sensationally admitted to using cocaine during her evidence, but denied that she was a regular drug user.
She blamed her use of the Class A drug in 2010 on "intimate terrorism" she was subjected to by her now ex-husband, describing how she felt "isolated and in fear ... just unhappy".
Far from the contented homemaker she appears to be in her TV shows, Ms Lawson described turning to cannabis during her final year of marriage to Mr Saatchi to make "an intolerable situation tolerable", but declared: "I have to say since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I'm now totally cannabis, cocaine, and drug-free."
The aim was to give evidence about her former PAs' spending, but more focus was on her own high-profile divorce.
Dressed all in black, standing for two full days of evidence in high-heeled boots, and speaking confidently and clearly, the celebrity cook lifted the lid on the messy break-up that captivated the world.
Describing how her life unravelled after the now-infamous pictures emerged of Mr Saatchi with his hand round her throat at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, Ms Lawson said she endured a "summer of bullying and abuse".
Her voice breaking at times, she described the millionaire's campaign against her, saying: "He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and clear his name, he would destroy me."
Mr Saatchi looked exasperated as the Scott's restaurant incident was brought up during his cross-examination.
Explaining his actions, he said: "I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus, can we be clear?
"Was it about her drug use? No."
But Ms Lawson said he told everyone he had been taking cocaine out of her nose, and claimed the incident was actually sparked when she commented on a person walking by with a baby.
She told the court she said to her ex-husband that she was looking forward to having grandchildren, adding: "He grabbed me by the throat and said 'I'm the only person you should be concerned with'."
Mr Saatchi was depicted as a bully, who "punished" her on one occasion for going to a friend's party, before becoming hell-bent on ruining her in any way he could.
Ms Lawson said she had not been beaten, but was left with "emotional scars'' which were "very wounding and very difficult and, of course, we know how things accelerated''.
The internationally-renowned cookery writer and TV presenter said she believes Mr Saatchi - who accused her in an email of being off her head on drugs and called her "Higella" - had a mindset of "get her, I don't care what it takes'' in relation to her and these legal proceedings.
But the court heard from Mr Saatchi that he just wanted Ms Lawson to be happy, and said he was "utterly bereft" that the email had been made public.
In contrast to his ex-wife, the Saatchi Gallery owner sat for the duration of his evidence, and was repeatedly asked to repeat his answers so the jury could hear him.
He said: "I adore Nigella now. I absolutely adore Nigella and I'm broken-hearted to have lost her.
"I wanted her to be happy."
He told the court his ex-wife was "generous" to all her employees and said the staff "all adored her".
It also became clear that Mr Saatchi was generous to Ms Lawson, showering her with presents.
The court was given an insight into spending in the household, which included thousands on flowers and concert tickets, and cashmere jumpers costing more than £2,000 as a gift from Mr Saatchi to Ms Lawson.
Ms Lawson herself told the court about one time she admired a dress from Joseph of London, saying: "Mr Saatchi very generously wanted to buy up every single one of those dresses."
In reference to Mr Saatchi possibly suing her if she did not appear as a witness in the trial, Ms Lawson said it was "just another form of bullying''.
She added: "I think he likes everyone to do what he wants."
During questioning about specialist cleaners that came to their home, Ms Lawson said Mr Saatchi "likes to have control over every element''.
She said: "You make the wrong assumption if you think I was in control of the decisions, and I don't think for one minute your client would disagree with me.''
When asked if her ex-husband had a temper, she said: "Yes, he did have a temper and I don't think that anyone can be in any doubt he had a temper."
She also said at one point that her ex-husband "didn't like to take part in family life".
But when asked about life at home before the breakdown, he said: "It was a happy home where everyone just buzzed around happily."