TV chef Nigella Lawson attacks ‘sideshow’ of drug claims
Cook whose cocaine use was revealed in trial says she is disappointed by acquittal of former assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo on fraud charges
The Guardian in London
Nigella Lawson has attacked the “ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use” levelled against her in the trial of her former assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, who have been found not guilty of a £685,000 fraud on household accounts.
Lawson, 53, issued a statement saying she was “disappointed but unsurprised” at the verdicts in a case in which she was a key prosecution witness alongside her ex-husband, the art dealer Charles Saatchi, for whom the Grillos also worked before the couple divorced in acrimony this summer.
In a strongly worded statement, Lawson complained that the claims of her habitual use of cocaine and cannabis made by the Grillos “made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible”.
“My experience as a witness was deeply disturbing,” the TV chef said in a statement issued through her publicist. “When false claims about habitual drug use were introduced I did everything possible to ensure the Crown Prosecution Service was aware of the sustained background campaign deliberately designed to destroy my reputation.”
Lawson said in court that her former husband had threatened to “destroy” her if she did not give evidence in the case.
The court heard he told her in an email calling her “Higella” that he believed the Grillos’ claims that she was “off her head on drugs”.
“During the trial not one witness claimed to see me take drugs and not one of my three assistants was asked about these claims by the defence, despite being cross-examined at length,” she said. “I did my civic duty, only to be maliciously vilified without the right to respond. I can only hope that my experience will highlight the need for a reform that will give witnesses some rights to rebut false claims made against them.”
Lawson said she would not be giving interviews. Her publicity team focused on her returning to the public eye in the New Year when her new food talent show, The Taste, will air on Channel 4 on 7 January.
She said it was “harrowing” to see her children “subjected to extreme allegations in court without any real protection or representation. For this I cannot forgive the court process.
“When I gave evidence I spoke of my regret at having to talk about the circumstances of the end of my marriage and also voiced concern about a campaign to circulate false allegations carried out over the course of this summer, then circulated as witness statements from the Grillos by a publicist, and eventually added to the defence of this prosecution in November. That concern remains. While this has been a difficult and upsetting time for both me and my family I would like to thank my friends, family and all those who have expressed support throughout this ordeal.”
Mark Borkowski, a public relations expert, said the verdict created a fresh danger for Lawson. He said the jury’s decision would trigger a hunt for evidence to corroborate the Grillos’ claims that Lawson was a habitual drug user, something she completely denies.
“There will be people in the media working on this to find out what is the truth and if the claims can be stood up,” he said. “There is a danger there ... Whichever way you look at it, it isn’t good. But Nigella has powerful friends, many of whom are journalists. She can turn to Team Nigella and there is a lot of sympathy.”