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Nigella Lawson and Saatchi branded liars in court

Francesca, left, and Elisabetta Grillo arrive at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Picture: PA

Francesca, left, and Elisabetta Grillo arrive at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Picture: PA

  • by MARGARET DAVIES
 

A FORMER personal assistant of Nigella Lawson on trial for defrauding the celebrity chef and her multi-millionaire ex-husband Charles Saatchi has accused them of lying in court.

Elisabetta Grillo told Isleworth Crown Court she was the only one telling the truth in the case, claiming Ms Lawson’s other PAs, who have also given evidence in court, had also lied.

The defendant, who along with her sister Francesca Grillo, 35, is accused of spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to the couple to buy designer goods and luxury holidays for herself.

As she began cross-examining her, prosecutor Jane Carpenter asked: “Ms Grillo, is it your evidence that Ms Lawson has lied to the court?”

She replied: “Yes.”

“And Mr Saatchi?”

“Yes.”

“And you’re the one telling the truth?”

“I am.”

The court previously heard the defendants allege that Ms Lawson, who divorced multi- millionaire Mr Saatchi earlier this year, regularly snorted cocaine and smoked cannabis during their ten-year marriage.

But, giving evidence last week, Ms Lawson told jurors she had only taken cocaine with her late husband John Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion in July 2010 during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.

Giving evidence yesterday, Elisabetta Grillo said she regularly found signs that Ms Lawson was using cocaine, including a packet of white powder found in a toilet in the home she shared with Mr Diamond, as well as rolled-up banknotes and credit cards with white powder on them.

She also told jurors she was aware that Ms Lawson had taken illegal substances.

Ms Grillo, 41, said Ms Lawson permitted her teenage children to smoke a Class C drug.

She was asked by prosecutor Jane Carpenter to explain a duty-free transaction for £69.71 in New York in June 2010.

“It was cigarettes for the children. I bought them and Nigella allowed me to buy them,” Ms Grillo said.

“I don’t remember how many packs. Nigella always told me to buy it.”

Asked by Ms Carpenter: “What on earth did you think you were doing, buying cigarettes for underage children?”

Ms Grillo said: “Well, if Nigella Lawson let the children smoke weed …”

The defendant tailed off as Judge Robin Johnson interrupted the exchange.

Ms Grillo told the court Mr Saatchi only discovered his former wife’s alleged drug habit on the day he was photographed with his hands around her throat outside Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair, central London.

Jurors were told Ms Grillo had not originally planned to use her former boss’s alleged drug taking in her defence in an effort to protect the television cook.

An original defence case statement for Ms Grillo from August did not include allegations of Ms Lawson’s drug use because she did not want them raised in court out of a “remnant of sympathy” for her, jurors heard.

But an extra statement added in November did include the claims.

The additional statement, read to the court by Ms Grillo’s barrister Anthony Metzer, QC, said: “The defendant will assert that the prosecution witness Nigella Lawson habitually indulged in the use of Class A and Class B drugs in addition to the abuse of prescription drugs throughout the time that the defendant was employed in the household.

“This evidence is of substantial importance as it explains why Ms Lawson initially consented, or appeared to consent, to the expenditure as the defendants were intimately connected to her private life and were aware of the drug use which she wanted to keep from her then-husband Charles Saatchi.

“The defendant’s case is that Ms Lawson’s drug use and the defendant’s knowledge of it materially affected her attitude to the defendant’s spending and in turn her attitude to this prosecution.

“Whilst it is not the defendant’s case there was an explicit agreement for silence in return for acquiescence in expenditure, the intimate atmosphere created by such knowledge informed their relationship and what the defendant considered was permitted by Ms Lawson.”

Asked about the incident outside Scott’s, Italian-born Ms Grillo said this was when she and her sister decided to bring up the drugs allegations.

She told the court: “I think especially when Charles picked her nose, it was the proof she still took drugs and he discovered that day.

“So we then decided it was the moment for everybody to know the truth – she could lie easily.”

She said before this she had wanted to “protect” Ms Lawson but had then felt “sad and disappointed” that she had refused to speak to her after 14 years of working for the family.

The Grillos, of west London, each deny a single count of committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain between 1 January, 2008 and 31 December, last year.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.

 
 
 

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