Higella email left me bereft, Saatchi tells trial

MULTI-millionaire Charles Saatchi was “utterly bereft” when an e-mail in which he accused his former wife Nigella Lawson of drugs “depravity” was made public, he told a court yesterday.
Former personal assistants to Saatchi and Lawson, Elisabetta (left) and  Francesca Grillo (right). Picture: PAFormer personal assistants to Saatchi and Lawson, Elisabetta (left) and  Francesca Grillo (right). Picture: PA
Former personal assistants to Saatchi and Lawson, Elisabetta (left) and Francesca Grillo (right). Picture: PA

The advertising mogul and art dealer also revealed he was “utterly heartbroken” by their divorce and wished this year had never happened.

Mr Saatchi accepted a ­police caution after being photographed gripping the TV chef by the neck at Scott’s restaurant in London’s Mayfair, in June, ­shortly before they split.

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After his e-mail was read to jurors, the art dealer was asked if he believed allegations that Ms Lawson was a habitual cocaine user.

“I do not know,” he told Islington Crown Court, where his two former personal assistants face trial accused of fraud.

“If you ask me whether I actually knew whether Nigella ever took drugs, the answer is no.”

Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo deny using credit cards, loaned to them by the celebrity couple to spend more than £685,000 on themselves. Mr Saatchi also listened as the e-mail he sent on 10 October was read out.

In it, the advertising tycoon referred to his former wife as “Higella” at one point.

He wrote: “Nigella, I was sent these by a newspaper and I can only laugh at your sorry depravity. Of course, now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you … were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and, yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money.”

The e-mail went on: “But I’m sure it was all great fun and now everything is perfect – bravo, you have become a celebrity hostess on a global TV game show. And you got the pass you desired, free to heartily enjoy all the drugs you want, forever. Classy.”

Questioned about the e-mail by prosecutor Jane Carpenter, Mr Saatchi said: “I’m utterly bereft this private e-mail to Nigella has come back to haunt us both. That’s all I have to say.

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“The stories that the Grillos were parading was that ­Nigella had a ­severe ­cocaine habit that stretched back a very long time for the entirety of our marriage.

“What I was speculating here was that the Grillos would use this as a defence.”

Mr Saatchi said Ms Lawson was “very cross” with him when he told her he had confronted their personal assistants about their alleged misuse of his company credit card.

He said he thought the Grillo sisters had been “naughty” but he wanted to put the matter behind them while Ms Lawson wanted to call the police.

It is alleged the Grillo sisters lived the “high life”, spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Referring to the atmosphere in the family home before the breakdown of his marriage and his divorce from Ms Lawson, Mr Saatchi said: “It was a happy home where everyone just buzzed around happily.”

When asked if he had adored Ms Lawson during their marriage, he said: “I adore Nigella now. I absolutely adore Nigella and I’m broken-hearted to have lost her.”

Mr Saatchi said he has no proof of the television cook’s alleged drug-taking. Responding to defence barrister Anthony Metzer QC, he said: “Like you, I like proof. I have no proof.”

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He later said: “I have never, never seen any evidence of ­Nigella taking any drug ­whatsoever.

“I want to be helpful, but I genuinely have no real knowledge at all.”

When asked by Mr Metzer if he became aware of Ms Lawson’s alleged drug-taking around the time of the “Scott’s restaurant incident”, he said it was indeed around that time.

Mr Metzer asked if he was “shocked”, to which Mr Saatchi said he was. “I’m very against drugs,” he added.

Mr Metzer then said: “You are a friend of Trinny Woodall [one half of the TV makeover duo Trinny and Susannah] who feels very strongly about this issue?”

Mr Saatchi rolled his eyes at this question and said: “Yes.” Speaking about Elisabetta Grillo, sometimes referred to in court as Lisa, Mr Saatchi said she was “very close” to his now former wife.

He said this closeness lasted “throughout the entire period” until the day he received a call from a taxi company about a booking he had not authorised. “She was exactly like a member of the family, yes,” he said.

Mr Saatchi said the “slavery story” – the defendants complained they were “being treated worse than Filipino slaves” – was “nonsense”.

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When Mr Metzer asked him if he thought a salary of £25,000 was suitably matched to the amount of work Lisa Grillo apparently carried out, Mr Saatchi said: “I think it seems perfectly fine.” He then said: “The truth is, there was no real need for us to keep them both on but we both liked them very much and we found work for them.”

Mr Saatchi said Ms Lawson was a “very, very nice employer”, adding: “The staff all adored her.”

He said later: “All I wanted was a nice, happy home atmosphere.”

The case, before a jury at Isleworth Crown Court, Hounslow, was adjourned until Wednesday, when Ms Lawson is expected to appear as a witness.

Credit card limit hit £100k, but Saatchi didn’t know

THE accountant in charge of Charles Saatchi’s finances told the court he increased his personal assistant’s credit limit to £100,000 without telling the art dealer the amount.

Earlier finance director Rahul Gajjar, 44, said he only began to suspect the sisters early last year.

Yesterday, during cross-examination by Karina Arden, representing Francesca Grillo, 35, Mr Gajjar said it was he who authorised her credit limit, which started at £25,000. Mr Gajjar said he raised it to £50,000 in February 2010 and to £100,000 in June 2011 as she kept going over the limit and her card was frozen.

Ms Arden asked: “So the level of spending, which may be suggested to be extraordinary – you and Charles knew about it?”

“Yes,” Mr Gajjar replied.

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Ms Arden went on: “He knew a credit limit of £50,000 was insufficient at one point and asked for it to be increased?”

“The details of the figure I don’t think Charles was aware of,” Mr Gajjar said.

Questioned about why Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, 41, bought so much for the household, Mr Gajjar said: “Charles and Nigella didn’t generally go shopping.”

Ms Arden said Francesca worked often from 5am or 6am until late, and travelled the world with the couple and their children. Asked if Francesca “lived and breathed” Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson, Mr Gajjar agreed they were “like family”.