Wednesday 20 September 2017

Nigella Lawson told 'you trashed your daughter's life', court hears

Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Elisabetta Grillo
An extract from the email, sent by Saatchi to Lawson, read by judge
Francesca Grillo

Nigella Lawson is a "habitual" cocaine user who "trashed" her daughter's life by allowing her to take drugs, a court has heard.

The television chef's use of cocaine, class B drugs and prescription pills on a "daily" basis for more than a decade was part of the reason for her infamous bust-up in a Mayfair restaurant with her husband Charles Saatchi which led to their divorce, it is alleged.

Mr Saatchi said he was "completely astounded" by the scale of her alleged drug use in a statement read out in court yesterday.

He referred to her as "Higella" in an email to her and said she and her 19-year-old daughter Cosima, known as Mimi, were "off (their) heads on drugs".

The allegations came to light when a judge at Isleworth Crown Court in London ruled that two former aides of Ms Lawson could use her "bad character" as part of their defence against charges that they defrauded the couple out of more than £300,000 (€358,000) using a corporate credit card.

Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo claim Miss Lawson (53) allowed them to spend the money on holidays and designer goods on the understanding that they kept her "guilty secret" from Mr Saatchi.

The Italian sisters, described by Miss Lawson as her "kitchen confidantes" are due to stand trial this week, and following the judge's ruling Ms Lawson, who is a witness in the case, will be cross-examined about her alleged drug use.

BUST-UP

Judge Robin Johnson had previously ruled the "bad character" evidence inadmissible, but he changed his mind after the defence disclosed more than 100 pages of new material on the eve of the trial, including an email from Mr Saatchi to his ex-wife.

He also lifted a reporting restriction that had, until now, prevented any publication of the allegations.

In the email, sent on October 10 this year -- four months after their public bust-up, Mr Saatchi wrote: "Of course the Grillos will now get off on the basis that you and Mimi where (sic) so off your heads on drugs you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked.

"And yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who, after all, only stole money.

"You, Higella, on the other hand, poisoned your child with drugs and trashed her life. Classy!"

A prosecutor said Ms Lawson had described the allegations as "totally scurrilous" and untrue.

Elisabetta (41) and Francesca, (35) who were employed by Ms Lawson for 13 years and nine years respectively, were arrested in August last year.

At a hearing earlier this month Anthony Metzer representing Elisabetta, told the court: "The bad character application relates to Ms Lawson's alleged use of both class A and class B drugs and also her unauthorised use of prescribed drugs as a matter which is highly relevant to the defence case.

"In a nutshell, we submit that she had a guilty secret from her then husband. She did not want him to know of her use of cocaine ... the defendants will maintain they were fully aware of her illicit drug use and she essentially would consent to their expenditure on the understanding that there would be no disclosure to her husband of her usage.

"The tacit understanding was that they would not shop her to her husband or the authorities."

Referring to the row between Ms Lawson and Mr Saatchi in the Mayfair restaurant Scott's in June, he said: "We are submitting that the row that resulted in Mr Saatchi assaulting Ms Lawson may well have had something to do with Ms Lawson taking drugs and may well have had something to do with the issue before this court -- she gave them authority to use the cards."

He added: "(Ms Lawson) is this enormously loved personality, she has a huge presence and that is why it is particularly relevant in this case. At the moment we have her word against our unknown clients.

"She is an enormously loved person who the jury are bound to have seen, and that is why the full context should be heard."

Summarising the defence case, the judge said: "Ms Lawson is a user of class A and class B drugs on a daily basis, this was a guilty secret kept from her husband."

SCURRILOUS

The judge said that as a result of the new evidence, "I will allow questions to be asked of Ms Lawson and other witnesses as to the alleged use of drugs and prescribed drugs."

Jane Carpenter, for the prosecution, said: "This is a totally scurrilous account which has been raised by the defence, and the timing is no coincidence at all." She said that despite being arrested more than a year ago and charged in March this year, the sisters only made the drug allegations to the court earlier this month.

Their alleged fraud was discovered in May last year when Mr Saatchi discovered they had booked a taxi to take them to a polo match in Berkshire using his account with a cab firm. When he asked his accountant to investigate other spending, he discovered they had bought handbags, holidays and other luxuries allegedly without permission.

Mr Metzer told the court: "When their expenditure came to light, Ms Lawson was backed into a corner and had to say that she didn't consent to the expenditure because she was concerned that if she indicated that 'I knew perfectly well and was perfectly happy', that would lead inexorably to the disclosure to her husband and the authorities about her drug use, which explains why she is now saying, 'I didn't consent' -- which is clearly the most important issue in this case.

"We know that Ms Lawson doesn't want this material disclosed."

Ms Lawson divorced Mr Saatchi in July on the grounds of his "unreasonable behaviour".

A spokesman for Ms Lawson said: "As proceedings are live we cannot comment at the moment." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Gordon Rayner and Hayley Dixon

Irish Independent

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