Celebrity television chef Nigella Lawson used cocaine and other drugs daily for about 10 years, her former assistants told a London court on Wednesday, the Guardian reported.
Former assistants of Lawson, who are accused of defrauding her of 300,000 pounds sterling while working for the couple, claim that she kept her dope use secret from her husband, the Jewish advertising industry billionaire and art collector Charles Saatchi. The two have since divorced.
In England, Lawson, 53, is dubbed “the domestic goddess.” The Jewish chef is believed to be worth about 15 million pounds, and has new shows in the pipeline to be aired on Britain’s Channel 4 and in the United States on the ABC network. According to the report, she used cocaine, soft drugs and prescription drugs on a daily basis. When Saatchi found out, he called her “Higella” in an angry email. When his message was made public, judge Robin Johnson decided to lift the gag order from the story.
The aides accused in the affair are Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, and according to Saatchi’s email to Lawson, he himself accepts the sisters’ claim that Lawson let them use the couple's funds - on condition that they didn’t tell him about her drug use.
The judge read aloud an extract from an email Saatchi wrote to his wife: “Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you were so off your head on drugs you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked … and yes I believe every word they have said.”
Lawson and Saatchi ended their 10-year marriage this summer, after a public scandal. A photographer caught the two during a quarrel at Scott’s Restaurant in Mayfair, where Saatchi was seen with his hand at Nigella’s throat.
The Grillos’ attorney claimed that this quarrel was related to the lawsuit filed against the sisters and to Lawson’s drug use.
The prosecuting counsel, Jane Carpenter, said on the other hand that the Grillos' allegation is “totally scurrilous,” and claimed that they made the accusation about drugs only about a year after their arrest, at a point when they had already admitted responsibility for embezzling money.
She also read the letter written by the sisters to Saatchi and Lawson, in which they express a hope “that somewhere in your hearts you can find a way to forgive us… Please forgive us and help us to put this right.”
At present Lawson is filming “The Taste” for Channel 4. The program is a cooking competition based on an American format, in which she will judge along with chefs Anthony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre. Another series with these three judges is scheduled to be aired in the United States starting in January, and ABC said that there is no intention of canceling the program.