Saatchi tells court he still ‘adores’ Nigella Lawson
Art dealer says he was ‘very fond’ of sisters accused of spending £685,000 on themselves
Charles Saatchi arrives today at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters
Charles Saatchi still “adores” his former wife Nigella Lawson, and does not believe she was “so off her head and addled with drugs” that she allowed their two former assistants to run up huge credit card bills, he told a court today.
The multimillionaire art dealer, who separated from Lawson this year, told a jury at Isleworth crown court in west London he was “utterly heartbroken” by their subsequent divorce.
“I adore Nigella now. I adore Nigella and I’m absolutely broken-hearted to have lost her.” In emotional and at times combative testimony,
Saatchi told a packed court that around the time Lawson moved out, after he was photographed with his hand around her throat at a London restaurant, he had been shown witness statements from Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo alleging that Lawson had been a daily user of cocaine, cannabis and prescription medication throughout their marriage.
Saatchi took the stand on the third day of the trial of the sisters, who are accused of running up huge credit card bills buying designer clothes, staying in luxury hotels and booking first-class flights for their personal use. They deny fraud.
He was repeatedly asked to raise his voice for the jury. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t realise I had such a quiet voice,” he said.
Saatchi was “completely astounded” to learn of the drug allegations, he said.
“I don’t like drugs at all and I didn’t like reading what the Grillos said was the culture in my home.”
He admitted, however, that he had written an email to his former wife on October 10th, in which he addressed her as “Higella” and taunted her about the drug allegations.
“Nigella, I was sent this by a newspaper and I could only laugh at your sorry depravity,” the email began.
It continued: “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 what they liked. And yes, I believe every bit the Grillos said.”
It concluded: “Bravo - you have become a celebrity jurist on a global television gameshow and you have got the pass you desired, free to enjoy all the drugs you want forever. Classy.”
Under cross-examination from Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta Grillo, he said: “I was just being nasty. This is not a very pleasant email, but I was very, very upset.”
He said the email came to light when Lawson’s legal team passed it to the prosecuting lawyers and said he was “entirely bereft that this private note to Nigella has come back to haunt me”.
He called her decision to pass it to her lawyers “a terrible, terrible mistake”. In response to later questioning by Mr Metzer, however, he said: “Are you asking me whether I think Nigella really was off her head? Do I think she was off her head and addled with drugs? Not for a second.”
He said he had “never, ever seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drug whatsoever”.
The court heard Lawson had instructed her lawyers to serve a withdrawal statement on October 17th, seeking to back out of giving evidence to the sisters’ criminal trial and a separate civil case that Lawson and Saatchi had initiated against them.