Nigella Lawson told a jury on Wednesday that "acts of intimate terrorism" by her "brutal" ex-husband, Charles Saatchi, drove her to cocaine and cannabis use. The television cook said that she had succumbed to snorting cocaine in 2010 when she felt "ashamed, isolated and in fear" and also admitted to smoking cannabis "with or in front of" her children.
On a day of intense drama at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, Miss Lawson said that Saatchi was trying to "destroy" her by making public her drug use after his "menaces" failed to force her to return to him.
Lawson, 53, said she first used cocaine when her first husband, John Diamond, was fighting cancer before his death from the disease in 2001. Her admission came during the fraud trial of two former aides, but she repeatedly told a jury that she felt she was the one on trial and the victim of a "witch hunt" as she spent an entire day in the witness box. She also gave her first account of the row in a restaurant that led to the end of her marriage to Mr Saatchi, saying that he grabbed her by the throat in a fit of jealousy, telling her: "I'm the only person who should be giving you pleasure."
Lawson, accompanied to court by her brother Dominic, the journalist, stood with her arms folded and clashed repeatedly with Anthony Metzer QC, one of the defence barristers, accusing him of "creeping up" on her with his questions. Judge Robin Johnson told her she was entitled not to answer questions if she was at risk of incriminating herself. Then Metzer asked her: "Are you or have you ever been a user of cocaine?" She replied: "I have never been a drug addict, I have never been a habitual user. There were two times in my life when I used cocaine.
"One time was when my husband's cancer was terminal and he was introduced to it, thinking it would help, and I did on maybe six occasions join in with him. "There was another time I took cocaine, in July of 2010. I was having a very, very difficult time. I felt subjected to acts of intimate terrorism by Saatchi. I felt totally ashamed, isolated and in fear and just unhappy. A friend of mine offered me some cocaine and I took it. It completely spooked me?…?I didn't have a drug problem, I had a life problem, and I needed to deal with it and went to a therapist."
She ridiculed the suggestion that she had used cocaine "daily" for 10 years, joking: "People who do that are a lot thinner than I am." Lawson said Saatchi did not approve of drugs, but alleged that during his time running the Saatchi & Saatchi advertising agency "they brought in a big sack of cocaine every Friday," which others took. Asked if she had ever taken cannabis, she struggled to keep her composure as she said: "I have. I would say with some shame, but I have to be honest, I have smoked the odd joint, starting, I would say, in the last year of my marriage to Saatchi.
"I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable. Since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man I am now totally cannabis, cocaine and illegal drug free." Asked if she had ever smoked the drug "with or in front of" the couple's children from previous relationships, she said: "I sometimes did, I'm afraid to say."
Lawson also confirmed she had taken the antidepressant Xanax, but only in doses prescribed by her doctor and not in "excessive" amounts. At the close of the day's proceedings, Lawson was told that she would have to return today for further cross-examination. The row in Scott's Turning to the couple's public row in Scott's restaurant in Mayfair in June, when Saatchi was photographed grabbing Lawson by the throat and tweaking her nose, she said: "He told everyone that he was taking cocaine out of my nose in Scott's - that is a lie. "I will tell you what happened. Someone walked by with a very sweet baby in a stroller and I said, 'I'm so looking forward to having grandchildren' and he grabbed me by the throat and said, 'I'm the only person you should be concerned with, I'm the only person who should be giving you pleasure'."
She added: "Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault, that tells you everything you need to know." He is trying to destroy me Lawson said in October that she no longer wanted to give evidence for the prosecution, and was asked why. She said: "My relations with Saatchi were not good. He said to me that if I didn't go back to him and clear his name he would destroy me and also started spreading false allegations of drug use?…?I felt his way of getting this out was to use this case."
He "menaced" her in August with threats of drug allegations, which later appeared on an internet blog "dedicated to salvaging Saatchi's reputation and savaging mine". She said: "I felt that this would not become a fraud case, I would be put on trial and actually that's what has happened. I have been put on trial here, where I am bound to answer the allegations and it comes after a long summer of bullying and abuse and I find it just like another chapter in that." Doomed marriage Lawson said Saatchi had a "temper" and "did not like to take part in family life". It would "irritate" Saatchi that she was financially independent, as "someone having money, it can be used to wield power" and he was "a very controlling person", she said.
Metzer, representing Elisabetta Grillo, who, with her sister Francesca, is accused of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on credit cards loaned by Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson, asked the television cook if her background "conflicted" with her ex-husband's as her lifestyle was more "liberal, bohemian and gregarious". She replied: "I don't understand why my marriage is pertinent to you". Throughout her evidence Lawson, who said her marriage had been "doomed", referred to her ex-husband only as "Saatchi" and glared at Metzer when he accidentally called her "Saatchi" at one point. 'Get her' Saatchi threatened to sue his ex-wife if she refused to give evidence in the case, because, said Lawson, "part of this campaign is to ruin me in whatever way, and if that is financial as well so be it".
"I think it would be 'Get her, I don't care what it takes, I don't care what it costs, do whatever it takes'. He feels betrayed by me." Lawson said she had been "punished" by Saatchi for going to a female friend's birthday party, adding: "I don't mean that I was beaten, but there was emotional abuse and it was very wounding." Diamond rings and laser hair removal Putting on a pair of reading glasses to look at credit card statements, Lawson confirmed that Elisabetta Grillo was given a Hermes watch and a diamond necklace from Tiffany's as gifts, while another aide put her 12,500 pounds wedding reception at the Saatchi Gallery on Saatchi's credit card at the couple's suggestion. But Lawson said she did not authorise the sisters' "giddy spending" of 685,000 pounds. They are accused of spending that sum fraudulently on Saatchi's credit card. They were never authorised to withdraw cash because "Charles kept a huge stash of it above the fridge" in a zipped freezer bag. The jury heard that other assistants, known as "team cupcake", also spent huge amounts of money on the credit cards. One spent 1,368 pounds at Annabel's nightclub in February 2012. A medical bill for pounds 2,300 was for "laser hair removal", Lawson said, adding: "It wasn't for her."
A bill for 15,500 pounds at the Shoreditch House members' club was for her daughter Cosima's 18th birthday party, another for 10,564 pounds was for tickets to a Kanye West concert for Saatchi's daughter Phoebe and her friends. Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo deny fraud. The trial continues.