Nigella Lawson denies using trial for own ends
Celebrity chef accused of trying to ‘explain herself to the world press’
Nigella Lawson leaving Isleworth crown court yesterday. “The fact is, I would rather be honest and ashamed,” she told the court. Photograph: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
Nigella Lawson has rejected suggestions that she is using the trial of two former personal assistants accused of defrauding her and her ex-husband of hundreds of thousands of pounds as an opportunity to address her past drug use, limit her reputational damage, and “explain herself to the world press”.
On the second day of her evidence at Isleworth crown court in west London, the TV cook and author said she had initially been reluctant to give evidence as she feared she might be the one who found herself on trial over her private life.
On Wednesday, she had admitted using both cocaine and cannabis in the past. “I have up until yesterday never spoken about anything that has happened over these past few months because I prefer to keep my private life private,” she said.
“I’m not proud of the fact I have taken drugs but that does not make me a drug addict or a habitual drug user,” she said.
Karina Arden, counsel for Francesca Grillo who is on trial with her sister, Elisabetta, began her cross-examination of Ms Lawson by asking about her drug use.
Referring to Ms Lawson’s admission on Wednesday that she had taken cocaine six times in 1999 when her first husband, John Diamond, learned that he had terminal cancer, and on one further occasion in 2010, Ms Arden asked whether she maintained that she had taken the drug only seven times.
“That is my evidence on oath, yes,” said Ms Lawson.
Ms Arden put it to Ms Lawson that she had come to court as part of a “damage-limitation” exercise after realising she was in a “damned-I-do and damned-I-don’t” situation because allegations about her past drug use had appeared on a blog and been referred to in court. “You dressed it up as your ‘civic duty’,” said Ms Arden. “[but] it is right to say that you have to some extent used this case as a vehicle for you to explain yourself to the world press.
“The fact of the matter is that you came here not to do your civic duty . . . but [because] you have come under pressure from your ex-husband.”
Ms Lawson replied that she had merely wanted to make it clear that the allegations of drug use had nothing to do with the incident outside Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair in June this year, when her then-husband was photographed clutching her by the throat.
She said the argument that led to that incident had nothing to do with drugs – as has been suggested – but had erupted after she told him how keen she was to have grandchildren and he had told her that she should be interested only in him.
“I have been honest about mistakes with drugs in the past,” she said. When she had been required to tell the truth, “I have told the truth”.
Ms Lawson said she objected to stories “peddled” by Mr Saatchi – not least that he had been checking her nose for cocaine when he was photographed outside Scott’s.
“The fact is, I would rather be honest and ashamed,” she said. “I wasn’t going to be bullied with lies,” she said. “Mr Saatchi was not examining me for cocaine. That’s a story he made up afterwards to clear his name.”
Ms Lawson also told the court on Wednesday that Mr Saatchi had threatened to destroy her and had menaced her with allegations of drug use as their marriage had disintegrated. She said she had tried to pull out of giving evidence because she believed he was using the case to air his grievances.
Ms Lawson said she had endured bullying and abuse and felt that the case had become a trial of her alleged drug use.
Lawyers for Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo have claimed Ms Lawson allowed them to spend freely on Saatchi’s account because they knew she was a daily drug user. The case continues. – (Guardian service)