Nigella in London on Thursday. (Reuters)
London, Dec. 5: Nigella Lawson returned to the witness stand today during the trial of two of her former assistants for alleged fraud and repeated more or less what she had said yesterday — yes, on a few occasions she had taken cocaine when she was under pressure but that did not make her a drug addict.
“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, wearing the same striking black outfit she had on yesterday.
The suggestion that Nigella, 53, had been “off her head” with drug use had come from her 70-year- husband, Charles Saatchi, an art gallery owner, though he later retracted this suggestion.
On arrival at Isleworth Crown Court this morning Nigella, accompanied by her journalist brother, Dominic Lawson, again had to run the gauntlet of a huge pack of photographers, reporters and cameramen.
Nigella’s beautiful but unsmiling photograph is on all the front pages today. The Daily Telegraph, a broadsheet, could not do any more if a nuclear war out — the entire space above the fold is devoted to Nigella. There is a quote to go with the image: “Nigella: I took cocaine but I am not an addict.”
The Daily Mail had cleared its entire front page for Nigella’s photograph. Its chosen quote is: “I didn’t have a drug problem. I had a life problem.”
The strap reads: “The day Nigella unburdened her soul in court. Pages 4-7.”
It could be the nation is fascinated by the dysfunctional marriage of a celebrity chef who manages to sell tens of thousands of recipe books at Christmas using her status as the nation’s number one “domestic Goddess”.
Despite appearance to the contrary, this is not a fight between Nigella and Saatchi but the trial of Elisabett Grillo (“Lisa”), 41, and her sister Francesca.
They are accused using credit cards loaned to them by their employers to spend more than £685,000 on themselves between 2008 and 2012.
But the media focus is very much on the badly broken relationship between Nigella and her ex-husband, whom she studiously refers to as “Mr Saatchi”.
She said she started seeing her second husband “not very long” after her first husband, journalist John Diamond, died from cancer in 2001, and they married in 2003.
When this case is over, Fleet Street feature writers – especially the women columnists – will dissect Nigella’s court quotes and seek to analyse what a modern girl really seeks in marriage today.
For example, Nigella objected to being described as “the lady of the house” when she was being cross-examined by Karina Arden, the barrister defending Francesca.
Repeating the term back, Nigella said: “I don’t think it is the job of a woman to run a house.”
She said the job was that of both herself and Mr Saatchi.
It remains to be seen whether Nigella’s earning potential, especially in America, is adversely affected by her confession she has taken cocaine.
She has admitted snorting cocaine seven times in total – six times with her former husband while he was terminally ill, starting in 1999. She then took cocaine in 2010 again while married to Saatchi and she had also smoked cannabis.
She said she began taking cannabis in the last year of her marriage to Saatchi. “I have to be honest, I have smoked the odd joint. I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. It’s a false friend and not a good idea. I found the answer was in changing the situation and trying to create a tolerable situation for me and my family. I have to say since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I’m now totally cannabis, cocaine, and drug free.”
She objected to stories “peddled” by her ex-husband, including that he was checking her nose for cocaine when he was photographed gripping her throat outside Scott’s restaurant in central London.
“The fact is, I would rather be honest and ashamed... I wasn’t going to be bullied with lies,” Nigella said today. “Mr Saatchi was not examining me for cocaine. That's a story he made up afterwards to clear his name.”
Arden accused Nigella of lying to police about using cocaine and cannabis: “You were not frank with the prosecution, you didn’t tell the prosecution the reality of the matter as you heard there were stories being put about of your drug use. You didn’t want the true stories about the occasions you have taken drugs out. You didn’t want that to come out. You weren’t frank with the prosecution. You were not being frank with the police, were you?”
Nigella: “I believe I was.”
Arden: “You actually told a lie.”
Nigella: “I was not telling a lie, I actually did say at the time that it was the extent that was not true.”
Under cross-examination Nigella denied using her evidence to explain herself in front of “the world’s press”.
“I felt it was my duty to come,” she said. “I certainly felt it would be an unpleasant experience but that's not a good enough reason not to do one’s duty. I prefer to keep my private life private.”