Wealth Blog
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Give Nigella Lawson a break

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 6:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 6:29pm

The British public loves a good session of washing dirty linen in public, especially when the washers are rich and famous. With TV chef Nigella Lawson and ex-husband, art multi-millionaire Charles Saatchi, you have both. But this one is really going too far.

First Nigella and Charles divorced in double quick time last summer, after a public spat when he did or did not put his hands around her throat, depending on who you believe. A dignified silence followed, but that wasn’t the end of it.

Now Nigella is in court to give her side of the story this week after her Italian personal assistants, Francesca and Elisabetta Grillos, said she took drugs and let them run riot with the credit cards to keep quiet. Then her ex-husband Charles Saatchi said in an email read in court that she used drugs, but then contradicted himself, later saying he had no evidence to support that. Did she or didn’t she? The trial at Isleworth Crown Court is actually of Nigella’s former assistants, who deny fraud to the tune of nearly HK$8 million. But the kitchen sink drama is coming out too.

Yesterday, Wednesday, the lady herself spoke up. Was it just a case of miffed husband and greedy employees taking advantage of a busy TV star? Was Nigella really sniffing away behind the fridge? Well, she admitted taking cocaine, but denies having a drug problem or being an addict. She explained she had first indulged with her late first husband, journalist John Diamond, when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It gave him some escape, she said.
 

A lot on her plate

She said she was responsible for looking after him and the family and was breadwinner - and that she had told her doctor about it at the time. She said she took it again in July 2010, after she felt she had been "subjected to intimate terrorism" by her second husband, now ex, Charles Saatchi.

Nigella, 53, added: "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 said, adding that she felt "isolated and in fear of... just unhappy.” A friend offered her some cocaine, she took it, but It "completely spooked" her. "The idea that I am a drug addict, or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous."
 

'Grabbed by the throat'

Nigella said Charles had "told everyone" he was taking cocaine out of her nose after he was photographed holding her neck at Scotts restaurant a few months ago. According to her, the incident was actually sparked when she commented on a person walking past with a baby. "I said 'I'm so looking forward to having grandchildren'." She added that: "he grabbed me by the throat and said 'I'm the only person you should be concerned with'."

Nigella told the court she smoked cannabis in the last year of her marriage to Charles. "I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. It's a false friend and not a good idea. I have to say, since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I'm now totally cannabis, cocaine, any drug-free." Having told her doctor, she didn’t feel the need to tell Charles. She insisted she was not a "habitual drug user and drug addict, or a snorter of cocaine for 10 years". Asked by Anthony Metzer QC, representing the Grillo sisters, where the drug claims may have come from, Ms Lawson replied: "I believe some of it came from your clients and Mr Saatchi - not the three most reliable witnesses."
 

'Witch hunt'

Nigella said she believed Mr Saatchi was on a campaign to "ruin me in any way", whether financial or otherwise, and had a mindset of "get her; I don't care what it takes". Nigella will give more evidence today, Thursday, when the case continues. 

Whatever else is dredged up, it seems weird in 2013 that a 53-year old woman who nursed her mother, sister and first husband through their deaths from cancer, built a great TV career and is clearly a good mother, should have to explain any of this. If you stopped a random sample of people on a London street and asked them when did they last get drunk or smoke a joint, I expect many of them would laugh and say last Saturday. Many would try cocaine too, if they could afford it. Very few would be shocked. It’s ridiculous that Nigella Lawson may well lose her American TV show now, just because she has been forced to confess she resorted to mother’s little helpers when her life hit the buffers. Give her a break.       

Anna.fenton@scmp.com

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