Millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi yesterday said he has made the “heartbreaking” decision to divorce TV chef Nigella Lawson after pictures showed him holding her by the throat as they had an argument on a restaurant terrace.
Saatchi, who accepted a police caution for assault, told a Sunday newspaper he had “clearly been a disappointment” to his wife, adding the couple have “become estranged and drifted apart”.
“I am sorry to announce that Nigella Lawson and I are getting divorced,” he said.
“I feel that I have clearly been a disappointment to Nigella during the last year or so, and I am disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way.”
In an announcement reported to have broken the news of the divorce to his wife, he added: “This is heartbreaking for both of us as our love was very deep, but in the last year we have become estranged and drifted apart.”
Three-times married Saatchi, 70, said: “The row photographed at Scott’s restaurant could equally have been Nigella grasping my neck to hold my attention – as indeed she has done in the past.”
Lawson, 53, and her children left the family home after the publication of the photos.
Her spokesman said there was no comment from Lawson on the newspaper statement.
Photographs of Lawson and Saatchi were published last month which showed their public row.
Saatchi admitted at the time that “the pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place”.
He dismissed the incident as nothing more than “a playful tiff” before voluntarily attending Charing Cross police station on 17 June, and accepting a police caution for assault. He said it was “better than the alternative, of this hanging over all of us for months”, and explained he had held Lawson by the throat while “attempting to emphasise my point”.
Lawson, who has been pictured without her wedding ring, has described him as “the exploder” due to his temper.
In his statement yesterday, Saatchi insisted again that his actions were not violent, saying that while he had his hands around Lawson’s neck, “there was no pressure applied to her”.
He said the pictures gave a “wholly different and incorrect implication”.
Saatchi added: “I am sorry that we had a row. I am sorry she was upset. I am even more sorry that this is the end of our marriage.”
Lawson, daughter of former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson, married Saatchi in 2003. She has two children, Cosima and Bruno, from her marriage to journalist John Diamond, who died of throat cancer in 2001. She became a household name in 1998 with her cookbook, How To Eat.
Saatchi, co-founder of the Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency, owns one of London’s biggest private art galleries. He was the main patron of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s.
He was previously married to Conde Nast advertising executive Kay Hartenstein from 1990 to 2001 and Doris Lockhart Dibley from 1973 to 1990.