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Nigella Lawson avoids drugs probe

2013-12-20 20:05

London - British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson will not face an investigation into claims of cocaine use which emerged during her personal assistants' fraud trial, police said on Friday.

Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo were cleared on Friday of fraudulently spending £685 000 on a company credit card owned by Lawson's then-husband, the millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi.

In a trial that saw details of the couple's private lives splashed across the newspapers, the assistants claimed Lawson had allowed them to spend thousands of pounds on designer handbags, first-class flights and other luxuries if they kept quiet about her cocaine use.

Lawson, the self-styled "domestic goddess" who has made a fortune with her TV series and cookbooks in Britain and the United States, insisted she was not addicted to drugs and had only used cocaine and cannabis occasionally in the past.

London's Metropolitan Police said they would not be investigating allegations of drug use by the 53-year-old at this time.

"Should any evidence, and that includes material from the trial, that could be investigated come to light, this decision will be reviewed," police said in a statement.

Lawson had complained during the trial that she was treated more like a defendant than a witness, after the assistants' lawyers repeatedly grilled her about the drug allegations.

The glamorous TV chef said she was "disappointed, but unsurprised" that the sisters were acquitted, adding that her experience as a witness was "deeply disturbing".

"Over the three-week trial the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible," she said.

The trial nearly collapsed after Prime Minister David Cameron declared his support for "Team Nigella" in a magazine interview halfway through the court case.

Lawson, the daughter of former finance minister Nigel Lawson, had lashed out at Saatchi in court for claiming she was so "off her head" on drugs that she had allowed the Grillos to spend whatever they liked.

The trial revealed tensions in the couple's decade-long marriage, which ended this year after shocking photographs emerged of Saatchi gripping Lawson around the throat at a London restaurant.

Saatchi, 70, accepted a police caution over the incident but insisted he had not been violent.

Lawson had told the court she had only taken drugs during two periods of her life.

She said she had taken cocaine with her first husband John Diamond just before he died of cancer in 2001, as well as in 2010 when she was having a "very, very difficult time" in her marriage to Saatchi.

She had also "smoked the odd joint" of cannabis to cope with the stress of her relationship with the art dealer, who she described as "brilliant but brutal".

The Grillos' lawyer Richard Cannon said the sisters were "naturally relieved" at the verdict at Isleworth Crown Court in west London.

"This has been a long, hard fight, played out in the gaze of the world's media," Cannon told reporters outside court.

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