We lost PR battle with Nigella, say Grillo sisters

Nigella Lawson arrives at court last month. Picture: Getty
Nigella Lawson arrives at court last month. Picture: Getty
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Nigella Lawson’s former personal assistants have said they may have won their legal battle but the celebrity chef has won the hearts of the British public.

Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo were acquitted last month on charges of fraudulently using company credit cards and spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on designer goods for themselves, while working as personal assistants to Lawson and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi.

But the Italian sisters claimed every purchase had been approved by their then-bosses and were found not guilty after jurors at Isleworth Crown Court in west London deliberated for nine hours.

“We have won the court case but definitely she had the most support from the public. She is well-loved and she will always be loved and I am sure she will be fine,” Francesca Grillo, 35, told ITV’s This Morning yesterday.

Lawson admitted during the trial that she took cocaine with her late husband John Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and in 2010 when she claimed she was being “subjected to intimate terrorism” by Mr Saatchi. Police are to review her admission that she took the class A drug.

The sisters said that it was “brave” of the TV cook to admit, during the trial, that she had taken cocaine.

But they said that they did not feel guilty about Lawson giving evidence because their own “freedom was at stake”.

Francesca said: “It was tough but it was more tough to sit down in a dock and think, ‘I might be in prison for a long time’.”

She said of Lawson’s family affairs being aired publicly: “I felt sorry for all of us involved.

“We shouldn’t have reached that. But unfortunately you are in a position where your freedom is at stake, so you have to tell your side of the story. I wish it didn’t happen, but I had to think about my freedom.”

Francesca added: “We were in court not because of her drug use or because we wanted her to be punished. In admitting it, I think she was very brave to do so. But I didn’t feel guilty.”

She said of the case: “It’s mortifying for her, it’s mortifying for us, it’s mortifying for everybody involved.” Elisabetta added: “I feel sorry that we ended up in that situation, that she did admit to that. But no, not guilty, because it was nothing to do with me. It’s her life.”

Francesca said of being accused: “It’s like you wake up one morning and your mother says, ‘I’m not your mother any more, sorry. You’ve been with me all your life, but I don’t know you any more’.”

Elisabetta added: “There are no winners in this situation. All of us lost something.”

Francesca said that it was too early for the sisters and Lawson to reconcile, adding: “It’s like a broken mirror – you can glue it back together but you see all the cracks.”

She said that when she was told what decision the jury had reached, her sister was “having another panic attack and lying on the floor”.

“At that point I just wanted my sister to be well. I wasn’t very worried about the verdict,” she told the programme.

Lawson appeared on US TV show Good Morning America last week to promote her new series The Taste, which began last night on Channel 4, but was also asked about the court case.

Asked what it was like to be a witness in the trial, Lawson told the programme: “I can’t really remember exactly because you’re so focused on answering the questions to the best of your ability that actually you don’t really have an enormous awareness of yourself.”

Lawson added that having details of her acrimonious split from millionaire art dealer Mr Saatchi talked about in court under the glare of the world’s media was “mortifying”.

“To have not only your private life but distortions of your private life put on display is mortifying, but there are people going through an awful lot worse and to dwell on any of it would be self pity and I don’t like to do that,” she said.