Wednesday 21 February 2018

Nigella drug use to come under police investigation

TV chef fears smear campaign as Scotland Yard announces U-turn

Robert Mendick in LONDON

Nigella Lawson is facing a police investigation into her admission that she used drugs after a dramatic about-turn by Scotland Yard last night.

Police are to carry out a review of evidence she gave during the fraud trial of Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, her former personal assistants. In the witness box, she admitted taking cocaine several times, most recently in 2010, and smoking cannabis.

However, evidence was also given by the two women claiming she had repeatedly used the Class A drug.

When they were acquitted on Friday, Scotland Yard said it would not look at her admissions or the women's claims. She would only be investigated if new evidence emerged.

But last night Commander Stephen Watson, of the Metropolitan Police, said officers would examine the "implications" of what she had said under oath and seek advice on what to do next from the Crown Prosecution Service.

Police will consider whether to bring drug possession charges and could also interview her to attempt to identify her suppliers. Social services could also intervene either at the request of police or on their own initiative after claims that she used drugs in front of her children.

Nigella Lawson. Photo by REUTERS/Luke Macgregor
Nigella Lawson. Photo by REUTERS/Luke Macgregor

The developments came amid mounting anger from Lawson and her supporters over what they see as a determined campaign to smear her reputation and damage her career after the collapse of her marriage to Charles Saatchi, the art dealer.

Fresh details have emerged of his role in the campaign, including how Charles Saatchi and the Grillo sisters used the same public relations representative.

In spite of the Grillo sisters being prosecuted for defrauding Saatchi, he used Richard Hillgrove to plant stories about his ex-wife. The adviser was also being used by the Grillos.

Friends said last night that Nigella Lawson was furious about how allegations of her drug use had emerged. However, Lawson's supporters also made clear that she was pressing ahead with her work.

Saatchi was understood to have left Britain for a holiday in the Caribbean.

Nigella Lawson's spokesman disclosed that all her nine cookery books would be republished over the coming months with new cover designs. A new TV series -- The Taste -- in which she stars as a cooking competition judge -- is to be shown on Channel 4 next month.

The disclosure is an apparent sign of the cook's confidence that her career is unharmed by the court case. However, she faces a new investigation which could be protracted.

Commander Watson, one of Scotland Yard's most senior officers, said officers would look at all aspects of what was said during the trial.

"We will use specialist resources from within the Metropolitan Police Service to examine all the evidence which emerged as part of a review into this matter," he said. "At some point once that review is included, presumably in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service, we will determine a way forward.

"Part and parcel of that review we will undertake will be to look at all aspects of the testimony that was given in the trial, which is now public knowledge, and will reveal itself in the transcripts of the trial. There are implications in terms of what has been said during the course of that trial and all those implications will be taken into account in determining an appropriate way forward."

On Friday, Scotland Yard issued a statement that said: "At this stage the Metropolitan Police will not be investigating these allegations."

But Watson said: "Frankly, I don't think the full colour of the Metropolitan Police Service's position was conveyed in that statement."

Scotland Yard's new review is likely to focus on evidence Lawson gave at Isleworth Crown Court on December 4.

The cook disclosed that she took the Class A drug on six occasions with John Diamond, her first husband, when he found out that he had terminal cancer.

"It gave him some escape," she told the court. "There was another time I took cocaine. In July 2010, I was having a very, very difficult time. I felt subjected to intimate terrorism by Mr Saatchi." She added: "The idea that I am a drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous."

Lawson also admitted taking cannabis in the last year of her marriage to the multi-millionaire art gallery owner.

"I have to be honest, I have smoked the odd joint," she said.

"I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. It's a false friend. I found the answer was in changing the situation and trying to create a tolerable situation for me and my family. Since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I'm now totally cannabis, cocaine and drug free."

She claimed in her evidence that Saatchi had "told everyone" he was taking cocaine out of her nose after he was photographed holding her neck at Scott's restaurant in central London. She said the incident was provoked by another, unrelated comment. Elisabetta Grillo gave evidence to the trial on December 14 in which she claimed Lawson "lets the children smoke weed".

Potential areas for the police to pursue include not just whether Lawson should be charged, but whether she can identify the suppliers of the cocaine.

They may also question Victoria Coren, who wrote in a national newspaper that she had taken cocaine with John Diamond before his death in 2001.

However, legal experts and police officers said pursuing a case against Lawson presented several difficulties.

Sally O'Neill QC, a criminal barrister from Furnival Chambers, said: "If someone does incriminate themselves giving evidence as a witness, it would be highly unusual for them to be prosecuted."

One former senior police officer, who declined to be named, said: "Clearly she was getting her drugs from someone and that, surely, must be a matter of public interest.

"There are also child protection issues about drugs and minors. Are the police going to ignore potential child protection issues in relation to a family just because they're rich, in a way they would not do if a family lived on a normal street in a normal town?"

© Telegraph

Irish Independent

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