Lawson further denies regular drug use

Last updated 08:06 06/12/2013
Nigella lawson
Reuters

UNDER PRESSURE: Nigella Lawson leaves Isleworth Crown Court in London after another harrowing day of testimony.

Charles Saatchi
ACCUSER: Charles Saatchi outed Nigella Lawson's drug use at the start of the trial.

Nigella comes clean on drugs

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Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson kept cocaine in a hollowed-out book alongside her wedding ring for her late husband, a court has heard.

She also was regularly seen with a runny nose while married to Charles Saatchi, and had rolled up bank notes lined with white powder in the home she shared with late husband John Diamond, jurors heard. 

A lawyer for one of her former assistants made the charge in court today. Francesca Grillo and her sister Elisabetta are on trial for allegedly using credit cards loaned to them by Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi to spend 685,000 pounds (more than NZ$1.37 million) on luxury clothes, accessories and rooms at high-end hotels.

Lawson denied the allegations as she was cross-examined by defence barrister Karina Arden.

"No, what I have in that jewellery box was one of my paternal grandmother's wedding rings, my maternal grandmother's wedding ring, some jewellery of my mother's and I have a wedding ring when we got married and a wedding ring John got after he got ill," Lawson said.

Admitting she used cocaine seven times, Lawson told told a UK court she would rather be "honest and ashamed" about her past drug use than be "bullied with lies." She said she had "never knowingly" met a drug dealer or exchanged money for cocaine.

When questions about her drug use continued, she said: "I really feel if you want to put me on trial, put me on trial. I don't feel it is right to have me here as a witness for the Crown and treat me like this."

"If I was taking cocaine and cannabis to the extent you say, I wouldn't be standing here," she said.

"If you think I'm going to sabotage my health and leave my children as orphans, you are very wrong," said Lawson, who has a son and a daughter from her marriage to John Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001.

"I promise you ... regular cocaine users do not look like this," added the cook, known for her voluptuous figure. "They are scrawny and look unhealthy."

Lawson, 53, appeared as a prosecution witness at the fraud trial of Grillos, longtime employees who worked as nannies, cleaners and assistants in the couple's home.

Coverage of the trial has focused more on her failed 10-year marriage with Saatchi and their tempestuous home life than on allegations that two women working for them were living the high life at the couple's unknowing expense.

Defence lawyers for the employees have suggested that Lawson ignored the Grillos' lavish expenditures in return for their silence about her drug use.

Lawson denied the claim her daughter, while in the study with her friend, found the book and the cocaine.

Her daughter called up Francesca Grillo, who then created an excuse to cover Lawson's tracks.

Lawson said Saatchi, a wealthy art dealer and advertising mogul, had threatened to destroy her if she did not clear his name after he was photographed gripping her throat outside Scott's restaurant in London, a widely published image that was soon followed by a divorce.

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"He told everyone that he was taking cocaine out of my nose at Scott's when he knows that is a lie," Lawson said, testifying at the trial of two former assistants accused of fraudulently using the couple's credit cards.

"But what actually happened was that somebody walked by with a very cute baby in a stroller and I said 'I am so looking forward to having grandchildren', and he grabbed me by the throat and said 'I am the only person you should be concerned with. I am the only person who should be giving you pleasure'.

"That is what happened."

Known for her sensuous TV manner and "domestic goddess" image, Lawson said Saatchi had spread "false allegations that I was a habitual user and drug addict" who snorted cocaine daily.

"People who do that are a lot thinner than I am," she said. "I have never been a drug addict. I have never been a habitual user."

Lawson said she taken cocaine half a dozen times with her first husband, John Diamond, while he was dying of cancer. And she took it once again in July 2010 at a time when "I felt subjected to acts of intimate terrorism" by Saatchi.

"A friend of mine offered me some cocaine and I took it," she said. "It completely spooked me."

Lawson also said she had "smoked the odd joint" starting in the last year of her marriage to Saatchi.

She said she had been reluctant to testify in court because she had already been subjected to a campaign of "bullying and abuse" from Saatchi, whom she divorced in July following the throat-grabbing incident.

"He said to me at the start that if I didn't go back to him and clear his name he would destroy me," Lawson said.

"He started spreading false allegations of drug use," she added. "I have been put on trial here ... and in the world's press."

Lawson told a jury at Isleworth Crown Court in London that Elisabetta Grillo had been "a rock" who helped her overcome the trauma of her first husband's death in 2001. But she said the 41-year-old Grillo - known to the family as Lisa - has left her family feeling betrayed.

"I loved Lisa. My children loved Lisa," said Lawson, who had showered Grillo with gifts, including a 7000-pound set of false teeth. But she said her employee's behaviour became increasingly bitter and unkind to Lawson's children.

Lawson was read a list of expenditures by the Grillos, including nights at luxury hotels and purchases from Yves St Laurent, Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel. She denied authorising them.

"It's very difficult when you find out that someone you have loved and trusted could behave in that way," Lawson said, her voice breaking. "In my heart of hearts I do not believe Lisa to be a bad person. But I believe her to have not a very strong moral compass."

Lawson appeared composed but tense as she was questioned about her marriage in often testy exchanges with Defence lawyer Anthony Metzer.

"I don't see why my marriage is pertinent to you," she snapped.

She said she had treated the Grillos like family, but disputed the lawyer's claim that Elisabetta Grillo was a surrogate mother to her two children.

"My children do not need a surrogate mother," she said.

- Agencies

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