Nigella Lawson has told a court that she had taken cocaine in the past but said the idea that she is a “drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous”.
The TV cook said she took cocaine with her late husband John Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and in July 2010 when she was being “subjected to intimate terrorism by Mr Saatchi”.
She said: “I have never been a drug addict. I’ve never been a habitual user. There are two times in my life when I have used cocaine.”
Ms Lawson, 53, went on to say the first was when her late husband Mr Diamond found out his cancer was terminal, and she had it with him on six occasions.
“It gave him some escape,” she said.
She said she had responsibility for looking after him and the family, and earning a living. Ms Lawson said she spoke to a doctor at the time. Speaking about the second time in her life, she said it was when a friend gave the drug to her.
“There was another time I took cocaine. In July 2010 I was having a very, very difficult time.
“I felt subjected to intimate terrorism by Mr Saatchi,” she said, adding that she felt “isolated and in fear of . . . just unhappy”.
“A friend of mine offered me some cocaine. I took it,” she said. Ms Lawson said it “completely spooked” her.
She said: “The idea that I am a drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous.”
Ms Lawson said this was her evidence under oath.
Her former personal assistants, Francesca Grillo and her sister Elisabetta, sometimes referred to as Lisa, are accused of committing fraud by abusing their positions by using a company credit card for personal gain.
Prosecutors claim the Italian sisters lived the ‘’high life’’, spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.
The pair are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Mr Saatchi to spend more than £685,000 on themselves, the jury has heard.
Ms Lawson told Isleworth Crown Court in London that Mr Saatchi “told everyone” he was taking cocaine out of her nose after he was photographed holding her neck at Scotts restaurant.
She claimed the incident was actually sparked when she commented on a person walking by with a baby.
“I said, ‘I’m so looking forward to having grandchildren’,” Ms Lawson told the court.
“He grabbed me by the throat and said, ‘I’m the only person you should be concerned with’.”
Ms Lawson admitted taking cannabis in the last year of her marriage to Mr Saatchi.
“I have to be honest, I have smoked the odd joint,” she said. “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, any drug-free.”
Ms Lawson claimed she did not know how to roll a cannabis joint but had instead asked others in her house to do so.
“This was not behaviour I’m proud of,” she said.
Ms Lawson said she was not a “habitual drug user and drug addict, or a snorter of cocaine for ten years”.
Asked by Anthony Metzer QC, representing Lisa Grillo, where these drug claims may have come from, Ms Lawson replied: “I believe some of it came from your clients and Mr Saatchi – not the three most reliable witnesses.”
Ms Lawson said Mr Saatchi was unaware that she was smoking cannabis and admitted she had not told him she took
cocaine once during their marriage. “It was a one-off,” she said. “I felt by going to my GP, I didn’t feel a need to tell him.”
Ms Lawson told the jury that Lisa was aware she had taken cocaine in the past. But she said claims that credit cards and envelopes containing white powder were left around the home she shared with Mr Diamond were “completely false”.
She admitted that Mr Diamond used rolled-up notes to take the drug. “John did but he carefully ironed them out,” she said. “There is some misery you cannot escape.”
Elisabetta Grillo, 41, and co-defendant Francesca, 35, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the fraud charge against them.
Ms Lawson said she believes Mr Saatchi had a mindset of “get her, I don’t care what it takes” in relation to her and the current legal proceedings. She told the court he feels betrayed by her.
In reference to Mr Saatchi possibly suing her if she did not appear as a witness in this trial, Ms Lawson said it was “just another form of bullying”.
She said he is on a campaign to “ruin me in any way”, whether financial or otherwise.
“I think he likes everyone to do what he wants,” she said.
She added that she feels there is a “witch-hunt” against her, and that she is on trial with no counsel and “no rights”.
Ms Lawson told the court that Mr Saatchi “punished” her on one occasion for going to a friend’s party.
When she was asked by Mr Metzer about the word “pass” used in a now infamous e-mail sent to her by Mr Saatchi in which he accused her of being “off her head” on drugs, she said: “I had once made reference to a ‘pass’ because I had been punished for going to a girlfriend’s birthday.”
Ms Lawson said she had not been beaten, but said she was left with “emotional scars”, which were “very wounding and very difficult and of course we know how things accelerated”.
She described the allegations of her drug use in the e-mail as being “part of his plan of attack”, and said she thought it was “very odd” that he knew what was in witness statements before they were published.
Ms Lawson said she believed Mr Saatchi intended to damage her interests, adding: “And look how it’s played out.”
The celebrity cook said she had hidden any drug use from Mr Saatchi, adding: “I could have weathered a conversation about it. I just wouldn’t have wanted to.” The trial continues.
Nigella’s voice trembles as she lays bare her side of the story
Nigella Lawson confidently strode past the cameramen, photographers and waiting reporters – who had to be penned off due to the sheer numbers – wearing an all-black outfit and high-heeled boots as she arrived at court yesterday.
The unglamorous setting of Isleworth Crown Court, west London, is the unlikely venue for the high-profile claims, counter claims and revelations to unfold.
Once the hearing was under way, Ms Lawson stood in the witness box for the entire time she was questioned – more than five hours – despite being offered to sit.
Only occasionally did she rest her hands on the wooden surround of the witness box or on her hip for support.
The stuffy courtroom was the stage for the laying bare of Ms Lawson’s side to the story of the couple’s marriage, subsequent breakdown and her past drug use.
Discussing her past use of cannabis and cocaine, the internationally renowned TV cook spoke openly and candidly about using the class A drug during two phases of her life, although her voice trembled at times.
With more than 30 reporters crammed into court, Ms Lawson said she had endured a “summer of bullying and abuse”. With her voice breaking at times, she told the court she felt that there had been a “witch hunt” and a “campaign” by ex-husband Charles Saatchi against her. “He had said to me if I didn’t get back to him and clear his name he would destroy me,” she said.