independent

Thursday 24 April 2014

Nigella: 'I'd rather be honest and ashamed than bullied with lies'

ISLEWORTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04:  Nigella Lawson (2L) leaves Isleworth Crown Court after giving evidence on December 4, 2013 in Isleworth, England. Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who worked as assistants to Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi, are accused of defrauding them of over 300,000 GBP.  (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) **BESTPIX**
ISLEWORTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 04: Nigella Lawson (2L) leaves Isleworth Crown Court after giving evidence on December 4, 2013 in Isleworth, England. Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who worked as assistants to Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi, are accused of defrauding them of over 300,000 GBP. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images) **BESTPIX**

NIGELLA Lawson angrily told a court yesterday she would never risk making her children "orphans" by becoming addicted to cocaine.

Lawson, who has admitted using the class A drug, said she would never "sabotage" her health and also denied keeping a stash of cocaine in a box with her late husband's wedding ring.

As she came to the end of her two-day testimony in the fraud trial of two former aides, Lawson (53) rejected an allegation she had lied to police about her drug use, saying she would rather be "honest, if ashamed" than "bullied by lies" from her ex-husband Charles Saatchi.

Karin Arden, defending Francesca Grillo, who is accused of fraudulently spending £580,000 (€692,000) on a company credit card, suggested to Lawson she had been a habitual user of cocaine, often seen with a "runny nose" and "white powder" around her nostrils.

Miss Lawson grabbed the sides of the witness box at Isleworth Crown Court in west London and said: "I don't know what quantity of drugs you think I get through. I am in no sense a drug addict or habitual user.

SCRAWNY

"If I was taking drugs to the extent you say, I wouldn't be standing here today. You know as well as I do that regular cocaine users don't look like this. They are scrawny and unhealthy. I value my health and my children have only me as a family. If you think I am going to sabotage my health and leave my children orphans, you are very wrong."

Miss Arden suggested to Lawson that her drug use was a "dark, guilty secret" in her marriage.

She replied: "In respect of the cocaine use when my first husband died, Mr Saatchi knew about it."

Mr Saatchi had earlier told the court he only found out this year.

Lawson had a jewellery box in the shape of a hollowed-out book, in which she kept jewellery inherited from her grandmothers and mother and wedding rings worn by her and her first husband, John Diamond, who died in 2001.

Miss Arden suggested she also kept cocaine in the box. Miss Lawson said: "I did not."

She also denied that cannabis dealers turned up at her house to sell her drugs.

Miss Arden asked: "Do you agree that you received a Mothers' Day card in 2011 or 2012 with a spliff taped to the card saying: 'To enjoy later'?"

Judge Robin Johnson stepped in and told Miss Arden: "That ends your cross-examination. I'm not having any more. You have exhausted my patience."

He told Miss Lawson not to answer the question.

Miss Arden asked Miss Lawson why her admission to taking drugs had not appeared on a police statement she gave in October, when she had briefly said she no longer wanted to give evidence.

She had told police Mr Saatchi was "peddling . . . false claims" about drug-taking, and Miss Arden said: "You were not frank with police officers. You told a lie because it's not correct to say stories about drugs were untrue."

Miss Lawson said: "It was true in that what my ex-husband had been saying was he was getting cocaine out of my nose at Scott's and I had been completely off my head for 10 years.

"Mr Saatchi was not examining me for cocaine. That was a story he made up afterwards because I would not go back and clear his name."

Miss Arden suggested Miss Lawson had used the case "as a vehicle" to settle scores with Mr Saatchi in front of the world's press.

She replied: "I didn't want to come to court, I would prefer not to because I had been menaced."

Miss Arden said: "The simple fact is that yesterday was the first time you have publicly said you have taken cocaine and cannabis, and I suggest that, on your part, was a case of damage limitation."

Lawson said: "I was asked a question and I responded . . . I would rather be honest, if ashamed, and explain about the drug usage but I wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to be bullied by lies told about a humiliating incident in a public place . . .

"I'm not proud of the fact that I have taken drugs but that does not make me a drug addict."

Miss Lawson described the case as her "last connection" with Mr Saatchi, who, she said, regards "litigation as a form of conversation".

He may have been married to a Domestic Goddess, but Charles Saatchi only allowed Miss Lawson to throw dinner parties once every two years, because, she said: "Mr Saatchi likes to take people out to Scott's restaurant."

PARTIES

Miss Arden suggested her client worked long hours, which included clearing up after dinner parties. Miss Lawson said: "I would say I had dinner parties once on a two-year basis. I was not happy about that.

"I can hardly remember a dinner party at Eaton Square (the marital home in west London)"

Miss Lawson said Mr Saatchi was particular about the way his house was kept. "He would go round and point at marks he wanted removed. He is a person with a tremendous eye for detail."

Mr Saatchi was particular about his food: while the weekly shopping came from Waitrose, Miss Grillo was "very involved in the purchasing of Mr Saatchi's eggs" and would also be sent out for his frappuccino coffees, Miss Lawson said.

Mr Saatchi had a "regular routine" in the morning, always having "weak tea and burnt toast" for breakfast.

Miss Lawson admitted to phoning Miss Grillo when the aide was on holiday in Spain to ask her if she knew where the TV remote control was. "That would have made Mr Saatchi incredibly irritable," she said.

The court also heard the couple had a 12ft x 12ft "silver room" full of tea and coffee services and candlesticks. Miss Lawson said she was "very glad to see the back of it" when the couple moved, although: "I like cleaning silver and I like cleaning shoes. I find it very therapeutic."

Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, pictured left, deny fraud. The case continues.

Irish Independent

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