Friday 20 April 2018

Nigella and Saatchi accused of manipulation

Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi
Nigella Lawson
Italian sisters Elisabetta (L) and Francesca Grillo arrive at Isleworth Crown Court in west London November 27, 2013. The two former assistants to celebrity chef Nigella Lawson appeared at court on Wednesday charged with fraud. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Francesca (L) and Elisabetta Grillo leave Isleworth Crown Court in west London November 27, 2013. The two former assistants to celebrity chef Nigella Lawson appeared at court on Wednesday charged with fraud. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Sisters Elisabetta 'Lisa' (back) and Francesca (right) Grillo, who are the former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, arriving at Isleworth Crown Court in London. The two sisters are accused of using a credit card given to them by the celebrity couple to buy things for themselves. It is alleged that between January 1 2008 and December 31 2012, Italians Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Former personal assistants to Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson, Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo (right) arriving with an unidentified woman at Isleworth Crown Court in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson were accused yesterday of "manipulating" the criminal justice system to enable them to air their grievances against each other in public.

The couple have used the fraud trial of two former aides as a "convenient forum" to throw mud at each other using the courts' exemption from libel claims, it was alleged.

The claims were made during an unsuccessful attempt by defence barristers to persuade a judge to throw out the case against two former aides accused of defrauding the couple out of £685,000 (about €820,000).

Ms Lawson took to Twitter to thank everybody who has continued to support her, and one of her closest friends described Mr Saatchi as "dangerous" and "a man scorned".

Ms Lawson (53) thanked her fans the only way she knows how, by posting a recipe for "holiday hotcake" on Twitter, describing it as: "The perfect recipe to show thanks for all your support & to those who hashtag #teamNigella."

Her sister-in-law, Rosa Monckton, tweeted: "A man scorned is much more dangerous than a woman #nigella."

Ms Lawson is due to be cross-examined under oath about her alleged "daily" use of cocaine after a judge at Isleworth Crown Court in London ruled that the case against Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo should proceed.

The Italian sisters were described as "pawns stuck in the middle" of the bitter divorce.

Their defence teams argued that the prosecution case had been fatally flawed by an email in which Mr Saatchi suggested that his ex-wife sanctioned their spending when she was "off her head" on drugs.

Mr Saatchi was also said to regard his ex-wife as a "habitual criminal" because of her alleged abuse of cocaine, class B and prescription drugs. Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta (41), said: "There has been a manipulation of the court process by the two main witnesses in the trial. It is a convenient forum for Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson to rehearse disputed matters between them in the courts, where libel is not possible."

He claimed Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, a daughter of former chancellor to the exchequer Nigel Lawson, could no longer be presented as "witnesses of truth". But the prosecution said it was "nonsense" to suggest the two aides had been used as "sacrificial lambs to expose Ms Lawson" and her alleged use of cocaine, class B drugs and prescription pills.

EVIDENCE

Mr Metzer said Mr Saatchi's solicitors sent a letter to Ms Lawson's solicitors on October 17 in which he threatened to sue his ex-wife for recovery of the money if she refused to give evidence in the trial.

It said Mr Saatchi was "concerned Ms Lawson gave the defendants permission to use the accounts for personal purposes while under the influence of drugs and/or that Ms Lawson has no credible recollection of events as a result of drug abuse".

On Tuesday, the court heart Mr Saatchi referred to Nigella as "Higella" in an email that he sent her and said that she and her 19-year-old daughter Cosima, known as Mimi, were "off your heads on drugs".

Gordon Rayner in London

Irish Independent

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