British cooking star Nigella Lawson has left home after pictures emerged of her advertising multimillionaire husband Charles Saatchi grasping her round the neck at an expensive London restaurant.
Lawson left her family home with a suitcase just hours after the shocking pictures were published, the Daily Mail reported.
The 53-year-old mother of two looked anxious and stressed as she dashed into a waiting taxi with her teenage son. Saatchi had left the couple's multi-million pound London home 90 minutes before.
Police were investigating the incident.
Scotland Yard said it was aware of the pictures which were published in Sunday newspapers.
A spokesman said: "Inquiries are in hand to establish the facts of the incident."
He added Lawson has not made any complaint to the police.
Pictures of Saatchi's attack on Lawson at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair appeared in the Sunday People newspaper.
Saatchi had launched a tirade of angry words, and four times he grasped Lawson around the neck, the Sunday People reported.
At first he used only his left hand, then both. At one stage he tweaked her nose then pushed both hands in her face. Twice Lawson jerked her head backwards as if in fear.
Several times she nodded intently while the conversation became more and more heated.
By the end of the meal she was clearly distraught and in tears.
The couple have been married for 10 years. It is his third marriage and her second.
Lawson, 53, had been abroad frequently promoting her latest book and TV series while Saatchi, 70, had become ever more reclusive and tetchy.
The bust-up came after the couple had just finished eating at the seafood restaurant, which is popular with celebrities including Pippa Middleton, Jeremy Clarkson and Simon Cowell.
Lawson and Saatchi always asked for the same table, which was outside because he liked to smoke, Sunday People said.
The attack could be clearly seen and heard by other customers and passers-by. Nobody intervened.
Lawson dabbed her eyes on a linen napkin as Saatchi tapped his cigarettes impatiently on the table.
Nigella then downed her glass of red wine in one gulp and began to talk, her voice trembling.
She seemed to be trying to pacify her husband, placing a hand on his left wrist as it lay on the table.
She leaned over and kissed his right cheek.
"The kiss was a strange thing. He was being intimidating, threatening," an onlooker said.
- © Fairfax NZ News