— Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson told a court she had taken
cocaine several times including when being subjected to "intimate
terrorism" by her millionaire ex-husband Charles Saatchi, in the
latest dramatic twist in a trial that has gripped Britain.
A well-known TV star and author in Britain and the United States,
Lawson also told the court on Wednesday she had smoked cannabis
occasionally in the final year of her marriage to art dealer Saatchi
but had "never been a drug addict or abuser."
"I don't have a drug problem, I have a life problem," said Lawson,
nicknamed the "Domestic Goddess" after the title of one of her
best-selling recipe books.
The 53-year-old was testifying at the trial of two of her personal
assistants who are facing fraud charges relating to the alleged
misuse of 685,000 pounds ($1.12 million) on a credit card belonging
to Saatchi's company.
Last week the assistants' defense counsel said there was a tacit
understanding they could spend what they liked as long as they did
not tell anyone about Lawson's drug use. They deny the fraud
charges. The court has also heard Saatchi wrote Lawson an email in
which he accused her of being "off her head" on drugs.
Lawson said on Wednesday she had taken cocaine on six occasions with
her first husband, journalist John Diamond, as he was dying of
throat cancer in 2001.
"It was a small amount but it gave him some escape," said the cook,
who is due to feature as a mentor and judge in U.S. TV cooking
competition show "The Taste" in the new year, on Walt Disney Co's
She said she also used the drug in July 2010. "I was having a very,
very difficult time," Lawson said. "I felt subjected to intimate
terrorism by Mr. Saatchi," she said.
"I would say with some shame that I (also) smoked the odd joint in
the last year of my marriage (to Saatchi). I am now totally
drug-free," she added.
Lawson and Saatchi, 70, ended their 10-year marriage in July, and he
accepted a police caution after newspapers published pictures of him
with his hands around his ex-wife's neck at a London restaurant a
The fraud case has exposed the bitter rows between them, once one of
Britain's most famous couples. Interest in the case has also been
stoked by the extent to which the assistants allegedly treated
themselves to lavish purchases on the credit card and the drug
allegations leveled at Lawson.
Flanked by police officers, Lawson arrived at Isleworth Crown Court
in west London on Wednesday to a barrage of flashlights and TV arc
lights from jostling media crews from around the world.
Earlier in court, she accused Saatchi of threatening to destroy her
with false drug allegations. She said she had been reluctant to give
evidence because of such allegations, which she said followed "a
long summer of bullying" from Saatchi.
"I felt this would not become a fraud case and I would be put on
trial and that is what happened," she said. "But I'm glad to answer
the allegations here and to the world's press," she added.
Lawson told the jury that following the "awful
incident" at the restaurant in June, false allegations of her drug
use began circulating on what she called a PR blog.
Those allegations, she said, had been "dedicated to salvaging Mr.
Saatchi's reputation and destroying mine".
She told the court her reluctance to give evidence in the trial had
angered Saatchi. "He had said to me if I didn't get back to him and
clear his name, he would destroy me," she added.
The court had previously heard that Saatchi wrote her an email in
October in which he said the two assistants on trial, Italian
sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, would be able to beat the
fraud charge because of her drug use.
"I can only laugh at your sorry depravity," he said in the email,
which was read in court. "Of course now the Grillos will get off on
the basis that you ... were so off your head on drugs that you
allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked."
In court last week, however, Saatchi said he had no proof that his
ex-wife had ever taken drugs. "Are you asking me whether I think
that Nigella truly was off her head? Not for a second," he said.
The court has been told by the prosecution that in the four months
to June 2012 alone, Francesca Grillo, 35, spent an average of 48,000
pounds per month and 41-year-old Elisabetta 28,000 pounds.
At various times during the four years to which the charges relate,
the court has heard, the sisters spent lavishly on flights to New
York, hotel stays, designer handbags and clothes.
Lawson told the court Elisabetta was a stalwart who had helped her
through the death of Diamond. She said the fraud allegations "broke
our heart" when revealed to her and Saatchi.
The trial continues.
(Writing by Stephen Addison; Editing by Pravin Char)