Wednesday 21 February 2018

Charles Saatchi accuses Nigella Lawson of being a 'habitual criminal’

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

Allegations about Nigella Lawson’s “daily” use of class A drugs have emerged ahead of the trial of her former assistants

Charles Saatchi has accused his ex wife Nigella Lawson of being a “habitual criminal” by taking cocaine in their marital home, a court has heard.

Mr Saatchi discovered that his ex wife was using class A drugs on a “daily basis” when he spoke to his daughter Phoebe and other members of his household, it is alleged.

The claims have come to light ahead of the trial of two former assistants to the TV chef who are accused of defrauding the couple out of more than £300,000 by paying for holidays, designer goods and other items on company credit cards.

At Isleworth Crown Court in London today, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo were described as “pawns caught in the middle” of a fall out from the couple’s acrimonious divorce in July.

Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta, made an application for the case against them to be thrown out on the basis that Mr Saatchi, a key prosecution witness, admitted in an email that he believed their defence, which is that Miss Lawson allowed them to spend the money when she was “off her head” on drugs.

The judge ruled that the trial should go ahead, meaning that both Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson will appear as prosecution witnesses and can be cross examined on the issue of Miss Lawson’s alleged drug abuse.

The trial judge Robin Johnson lifted reporting restrictions with the agreement of the prosecution and the defence to enable details of the application to be published.

Yesterday, the court had heard that Mr Saatchi sent an email to Miss Lawson on October 10 this year in which he called her “Higella” and said she had “trashed” the life of her 19-year-old daughter Cosima by allowing her to take drugs.

In the same email he said he believed “every word” of the sisters allegations about Miss Lawson’s drug taking, and Mr Metzer suggested the prosecution case was fatally undermined if one of the two key witnesses accepted the defence case.

He said: “There has been a manipulation of the court process by the two main witnesses in the trial. It is a device from which our clients are in the middle.

“It is a convenient forum for Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson to rehearse disputed matters between them in the courts where libel is not possible.”

Mr Metzer said there was a “culture of secrecy” within the marriage and Mr Saatchi only discovered his then wife was taking drugs at around the time of their infamous bust up in the Mayfair restaurant Scott’s, which led to their separation in June.

Mr Metzer said: “We say how can the prosecution put forward now both Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson as witnesses of truth where, if Mr Saatchi is telling the truth, Miss Lawson is a habitual criminal.”

The court was also told that Mr Saatchi’s solicitors sent a letter to Miss Lawson’s solicitors on October 17 this year in which Mr Saatchi threatened to sue his ex wife for the money allegedly stolen by the Italian sisters after she had made it clear she was reconsidering whether to give evidence.

In the letter Miss Lawson was accused of “negligently failed to ensure that the defendants were using a company credit card responsibly" and Mr Saatchi said it was his position that the defendants were not given permission to spend the money.

The letter said Mr Saatchi was “concerned that Miss Lawson gave the defendants permission to use the accounts for personal purposes whilst under the influence of drugs and/or that Miss Lawson has no credible recollection of events as a result of drug abuse.”

Karina Arden, representing Francesca Grillo, said: “On one view it looks as if the defended divorce scenario that was not defended at the time is now to be defended in court with the two defendants stuck in the middle.”

The judge said: “You are saying they are pawns caught in the middle of this.”

Jane Carpenter, for the prosecution, rejected the suggestion that the defendants were “sacrificial lambs to expose Miss Lawson”.

On the issue of whether Miss Lawson or Mr Saatchi could now be believed when they give evidence, the judge said: “Surely that is what juries are for.”

He rejected the application to stay the proceedings saying: “With the right rulings and with the ability to monitor the process of the court during the course of the trial a fair trial can be achieved.”

By Gordon Rayner

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