(From top) Lawson, Woodall and Saatchi
London, Nov. 30: All is set now for Nigella Lawson herself to give evidence on Wednesday in a trial which saw a bizarre about turn yesterday by her ex-husband, Charles Saatchi.
In an email, quoted around the world, Saatchi had referred to Nigella as “Higella” which he dismissed yesterday as “a silly pun”.
Also in the same email, which he had written when he was still very angry after their acrimonious divorce, he accused Nigella of being “off your heads on drugs”.
Basically, Saatchi’s line was that he had not meant what he had said and, in any case, the email was meant to be for Nigella’s consumption only — “I was very upset. I wasn’t laughing, I was broken-hearted”. He confessed: “I was just being nasty.”
Yesterday, the 70-year-old multimillionaire art dealer told Isleworth Crown Court in west London: “It was hearsay. I personally have absolutely no knowledge that Nigella has ever taken a drug ever.”
There seems to be a new woman in Saatchi’s life — TV presenter Trinny Woodall whose stock in trade was to tell people why their dress sense was appalling and how she could help them to find the right clothes.
Nevertheless, Saatchi used his court appearance yesterday to almost try and win back his “Domestic Goddess”.
Sounding as though he was reading dialogue from a Mills & Boon novelette, Saatchi said gently in a low voice: “I adore Nigella now. I absolutely adore Nigella and I’m broken-hearted to have lost her. I wanted her to be happy.”
In a soap opera, the court door would open and our heroine would rush in to violin music and fling her arms round her now forgiven husband and the tale of Nigella and Charles would end happily.
But despite appearance to the contrary, the tussle in court is not between Nigella and Saatchi. The trial is of two Italian sisters, Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, 41 and 35 respectively, who are accused of fraudulently using the Coutts credit card given to them by Nigella and Saatchi for running up a bill of more than £685,000”.
The sisters deny the charges. Having worked for Nigella as nannies from the time her first husband, journalist John Diamond was dying of cancer, they had become part of the family.
When Diamond died, Nigella was quick to marry Saatchi, just as Trinny now has shown alacrity in wrapping herself, metaphorically and literally, round the man said to be worth £120 million.
Trinny, 49 — four years younger than Nigella — is now wined and dined regularly at Scott’s, the restaurant where the “Throttlegate” saga began.Yesterday, questioned by Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta, Saatchi again took the opportunity to deny he was a wife basher.
“I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus, can we be clear?” said Saatchi. “Was it about her drug use? No.” During intense questioning from Metzer later on, Saatchi said: “Are you asking me whether I think that Nigella truly was off her head? Not for a second. Over this whole period she was writing books very successfully. I have never, never seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drug whatsoever.”
The trial provides a glimpse into the lives of the rich. Since the sisters found the limit on their credit card was not enough, the figure was raised from £25,000 to £50,000 and then to £100,000. They did all the shopping for the family but the allegation is that the personal got mixed up with their purchases for the family.
An aide to Saatchi revealed: “Charles and Nigella didn’t generally go shopping like most people do. They would have their personal assistants shop for them.”
The sisters used the card to buy designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood for themselves.
The Saatchi Gallery owner admitted he had “no interest” in the financial side of his business, telling jurors that when the defendants’ alleged fraud first came to his attention, “I rather foolishly thought I would overlook it as them getting carried away and being naughty”.
He said he and his ex-wife were “very fond” of the sisters, adding: “It gives me great pain to see them in this situation.”
It was apparently Nigella who wanted the police called in. It was then the sisters let it be known that the arrangement was for them to use the credit card much as they liked so long as Saatchi did not hear about his wife’s alleged dependence on drugs.
For Nigella, it is imperative that the drugs allegations are disproved if she is to rescue her career in America where a second series of her food programme, Taste, is about to be launched.
An article today in The Daily Telegraph discussed the possible damage to Nigella’s prospects. It recalled the case of the supermodel Kate Moss who was photographed sniffing cocaine.
“While she suffered little long-term impact to her career in Britain after being photographed allegedly snorting cocaine in 2006, Kate Moss, for instance, was permanently tarnished in the US and reportedly still struggles to obtain a work visa today — a fate that could await Lawson if the allegations are proven.
“Nigella has no chance in the US if these allegations have credibility,” one American television critic told the paper. It said that “her unique British style struggled to really cut it in middle America, where Lawson’s trademark ‘gastroporn’ — nibbling and sucking as she cooks — would be interpreted as an obscene video involving someone’s lunch.”