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Feeding frenzy over Nigella Lawson is losing the plot, says minister

Monday, 23 December 2013 - 10:00am IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Britain is "losing the plot" over the way Nigella Lawson's private life was dragged through the courts and she has been treated "appallingly", a minister has said.

The television cook is right to complain that she has been put on trial and has been subjected to a public "feeding frenzy" as her marriage collapsed, Anna Soubry, the defence minister, said.

Her intervention comes as Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, Miss Lawson's former aides, gave their first interview since their acquittal, claiming she was "like a zombie" during the breakdown of her marriage to Charles Saatchi.

During the Grillos' fraud trial, Miss Lawson was accused of routinely taking illegal drugs. She admitted occasionally taking cocaine when her first husband was dying of cancer and years later to cope with Mr Saatchi's bullying, but strongly denied being a regular user.

Mrs Soubry said: "It is almost like a traditional feeding frenzy and I just find it utterly appalling and I think everybody should just shut up and leave them to it."

She added: "We are beginning to lose the plot in this country. It started with a photograph of her being assaulted by her husband. Out in public was played what should have been a very private and very distressing moment.

"These criminal proceedings had already begun in 2012, and now we have had this playing out of this court case where Nigella Lawson quite properly complains that she feels she is on trial."

Her remarks follow a comment from David Cameron that almost derailed the trial. The Prime Minister was criticised by Judge Robin Johnson after saying he was on "Team Nigella" and a "massive fan".

However, her former assistants have painted a very different picture of the "domestic goddess", claiming she wandered around her pounds 15?million Belgravia home in a trance and would talk gibberish and binge on junk food. Francesca, 35, told The Sun: "She'd be this hyperactive Duracell bunny buzzing round the house. But then she wouldn't be able to sleep and would turn into a zombie.

When you spoke to her it was like there was nothing there. She was vacant." Francesca, who told the jury that drugs had changed Miss Lawson and made her "absent and grumpy", said that her mood swings had become more violent in the last 18 months of her marriage.

She "changed massively" and "lost the confidence to deal with the stress in her life", she said, adding that Miss Lawson suffered insomnia and would get up and bake cakes at night then sleep in the day.

Describing life with Miss Lawson as a rollercoaster, she added: "She'd talk to herself, mostly gibberish, and say to us, 'Just ignore me; I'm not making sense today'."

She became "obsessed" with visiting a psychic on The Kings Road, the pair claim, and would comfort eat as her children indulged in takeaways and microwave meals.

They also say she would gorge on junk food from McDonald's, Domino's Pizza, KFC and Wagamama when she got the "munchies" after late night "bonding" sessions with her daughter Cosima, 20.

During the trial Miss Lawson admitted she had smoked cannabis "with or in front of" her children but is now "drug free". In a statement she said the past months had been "extremely difficult", but added: "I will survive this and move forward.

I just want to focus on my family life and work." Police will review drug admissions Scotland Yard has gone into reverse as the force says it will review evidence surrounding Nigella Lawson's cocaine admissions.

A specialist team will comb over "all the evidence emerging" about the television cook's drug use before consulting with the Crown Prosecution Service how to proceed.

Sources have confirmed that the position has changed over the weekend after police faced a backlash from anti-drugs campaigners. Just hours after Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo were cleared of fraud on Friday the force announced that they were not investigating the "allegations", but is now launching a review as a result of the outcry. Miss Lawson denies she was a habitual user.

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