Tuesday 17 October 2017

I didn't throttle her – I love her, 'heartbroken' Saatchi tells court

Nigella Lawson (L) and Charles Saatchi
Nigella Lawson (L) and Charles Saatchi
Charles Saatchi arrives at Isleworth Crown Court
Nigella Lawson

Gordon Rayner London

She said 'I'm happy because I don't feel I have to ask for a pass to do what I feel like doing'

CHARLES SAATCHI has spoken in detail for the first time about the infamous restaurant row with Nigella Lawson, claiming he was only holding his ex-wife by the throat "to make her focus".

Mr Saatchi told a court that he did not "throttle" the television chef when he was photographed with his hands around her neck as they argued at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, London, in June.

The incident, which was widely reported, led to the couple divorcing.

Yesterday, Mr Saatchi spoke of his heartbreak at the split, saying he still "adored" his ex-wife and was "utterly bereft" that details of her alleged drug use had been publicised.

During an emotional afternoon in the witness box at the trial of two former aides accused of fraud, Mr Saatchi gave details of the moment he was told of Ms Lawson's "sorry depravity" as an alleged cocaine user and disclosed the reason she gave for leaving him.

Anthony Metzer, representing Ms Lawson's former aide Elisabetta Grillo, introduced the subject of the couple's restaurant bust-up.

Mr Saatchi said: "Let me just, while I've got the chance – I accepted the caution for assault. I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus. I wanted her to focus on what we were speaking about."

Asked what the row was about, he said: "Her drug use? No." The jury was told of an email sent by Mr Saatchi to Ms Lawson on October 10 this year, referring to two witness statements made by former aides Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, in which they made allegations that Ms Lawson used cocaine, cannabis and prescription drugs on a daily basis.

Mr Saatchi told the court: "The story the Grillos were raising was that Nigella had a severe cocaine habit that stretched back a very long time, the entirety of our marriage, and that she took cannabis and shared it with her daughter for a long time."

In the email to Ms Lawson, he said that when he read the allegations "I could only laugh at your sorry depravity" and said she now had "the pass you desired, free to heartily enjoy all the drugs you want forever".

Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, who divorced in July, were accused earlier in the trial of "manipulating" the criminal justice system to sling mud at each other free from the threat of libel proceedings.

But Mr Saatchi told Isleworth Crown Court in London nothing could be further from the truth. "I'm utterly heartbroken that I have lost Nigella," he said.

As Jane Carpenter, the prosecutor, asked him about the email, he interrupted her to say that it was a "private" email until it was given to the prosecution by Ms Lawson's lawyers.

Asked what he meant when he referred to his ex-wife having a "pass" to take drugs, he said: "In one of the rare conversations I have had with Nigella since we split, I asked her whether she was happy and she said yes, she was happy. I said, 'What was this all about?' She said, 'I'm happy because I don't feel I have to ask for a pass to do what I feel like doing,' and I said, 'You never had to ask for a pass'."

He said his reference to her being able to take as many drugs as she wanted was him "being nasty", though he said he found the accounts of drug abuse given by the Grillo sisters "pretty compelling".

Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo deny fraud. The trial continues. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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