UK & World News

  • 17 December 2013, 21:12

Nigella Aide: 'Saatchi Threatened To Destroy Me'

A former aide to Nigella Lawson has told a court she "frequently" found rolled-up banknotes with white powder on them in her handbag, and that the TV cook's ex-husband Charles Saatchi had threatened to "destroy her".

Francesca Grillo, 35, who along with her sister Elisabetta, 41, is on trial accused of defrauding Ms Lawson and Mr Saatchi, said she never saw Ms Lawson taking drugs although she did find evidence of drug use on many occasions.

She also said Mr Saatchi had a "personal vendetta" against her and her sister, who are alleged to have spent 685,000 on credit cards belonging to the now-divorced celebrity couple.

Confronted by the multimillionaire art dealer over her credit card use, the defendant, of Italian descent, told the court: "He was banging on the table ... he said I would end up in handcuffs."

She said the situation became "quite scary" as Mr Saatchi told her: "Hide anywhere in Italy but I will find you and destroy you.

"He said he was going to destroy me and hunt me down. That was his words. His voice was shouting and he was banging on the table and accusing me of various things that were not true.

"The more he got upset, the more I got frightened. You don't cross Charles Saatchi, everyone knows that."

She also said she first saw the rolled-up notes at the food writer's Shepherd's Bush home, in the kitchen after a party and also in a guest bedroom.

One of her jobs as Ms Lawson's aide was to exchange items between her handbags, and she would find rolled-up banknotes in those, she told the court.

Asked how often she found the banknotes, Grillo said: "Frequently. Every time I went through her handbag there was some notes. It was very frequent."

On a few occasions Ms Lawson would come downstairs with white powder "in her nostril", she told the court.

"I said to her, 'you have something in your nose. She wiped it away and said it was make-up. But it was too white to be make-up," she said.

The aide also recalled how she improvised an excuse to protect her employer when a child discovered a hollow book containing what the employee thought were drugs.

"She (the child) said 'Look what I found in (the) book!'. It was a small plastic bag with white powder. I made up something," she told the court.

The defendant said she often found remnants of cannabis in the house, but never raised the issue of drugs because "I didn't think it was my place".

She also talked about the photographs of Mr Saatchi with his hands on Ms Lawson's throat outside Scott's restaurant in Mayfair in central London.

"In the photos she appears to be crying. It shocked me because she said she didn't cry very often in public," she said.

"The one that stuck in my mind was the one of him picking her nose. Maybe he found something relating to drugs.

"I maybe thought if he didn't know that, he probably didn't know about the authorisation - the allowance - of the signatures (by Ms Lawson, on personal expenditure)."

She told jurors she raised the evidence of drug use "because it would show a pattern, how Nigella hides the truth and how she behaves".

The jury heard that in the last few years Ms Lawson became "absent and grumpy" and had trouble sleeping.

The ex-PA said Ms Lawson would "swig from bottles containing liquid medication for depression".

The court has heard the siblings bought designer clothes, shoes and luxury holidays on the cards.

The Grillos, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain between January 1, 2008 and December 31 last year.

The trial continues.

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