UK & World News
Nigella Lawson 'Disappointed' After PAs Cleared
TV cook Nigella Lawson says she is "disappointed but unsurprised" after two of her aides were found not guilty of fraud.
Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, were alleged to have used company credit cards to spend £685,000 on items for themselves including designer shoes and clothes.
The Italian sisters were employed as PAs by Ms Lawson and her multimillionaire art dealer ex-husband Charles Saatchi, who were divorced earlier this year.
A jury at Isleworth Crown Court took eight hours and 52 minutes to clear the pair of the charges against them.
Scotland Yard has confirmed that it will not investigate claims made in court that Ms Lawson took cocaine, but will review the decision if new evidence comes to light.
In a strongly-worded statement, the author and broadcaster slammed the "ridiculous sideshow" of drug allegations and claimed there had been a "sustained background campaign to destroy my reputation".
She said her experience as a witness had been "deeply disturbing" and added: "Even more harrowing was seeing my children subjected to extreme allegations in court without any real protection or representation.
"For this I cannot forgive the court process."
The Grillo sisters were not in court to hear the verdicts but there was a cry of "yes" from someone in the public gallery.
Francesca was with her sister in another room in the court after Elisabetta, who suffers from claustrophobia and panic attacks, collapsed for the second time in 24 hours this morning.
A delighted Francesca declared in Italian "There is a God!" and talked excitedly on her phone outside the court after learning that she had been found not guilty.
She told Sky News she was "extremely excited and pleased" to have been found innocent.
Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta, said his client was "relieved" and "crying her eyes out".
Mr Metzer said he was "incredibly thrilled and delighted for both of them" and wanted to thank the jury for their attention during the trial.
Sky News can now report that defence lawyers applied to have the case thrown out after arguing that comments made by public figures, including Prime Minister David Cameron, meant they could not receive a fair trial.
Asked by Spectator editor Fraser Nelson if he was on "Team Nigella", Mr Cameron replied he was a "massive fan" and described the cook as a "very funny and warm person".
Judge Robin Johnson told the jury to ignore the Prime Minister's "regrettable" comments after defence lawyers claimed he had "tied himself to the vast majority of the prosecution witnesses".
Asked to comment on the verdict by Sky's Political Correspondent Anushka Asthana in Brussels today, Mr Cameron told reporters: "I've probably said enough on that one."
The jury of seven men and five women was sent out on Thursday morning after a three-week trial, which attracted worldwide attention as details of Ms Lawson's marriage to Mr Saatchi were laid bare in court.
Mr Saatchi had been accused of using the trial against the Grillo sisters to "attack" his former wife.
The high-profile marriage suddenly and publicly fell apart after he was photographed clasping Ms Lawson's throat at Scott's restaurant in Mayfair earlier this year.
Mr Metzer, defence counsel for Elisabetta Grillo, said she was caught in the "crossfire" between the former couple.
The jury in Court 8 heard details of an email sent by Mr Saatchi in which he accused Ms Lawson of being on drugs and branding her "Higella".
He said in that message: "Of course, now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you ... were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and, yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money."
Ms Lawson revealed during the trial that she took cocaine with her late husband, John Diamond, when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion in July 2010 during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.
But the 53-year-old, who also admitted to smoking cannabis, told the court the idea that she is a "drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous".
The food writer claimed her 10-year marriage to Mr Saatchi became so unhappy that it drove her to drugs, which made an "intolerable situation tolerable".
In her evidence, Francesca Grillo said she "frequently" found rolled-up bank notes with white powder on them in Ms Lawson's handbags.
The Grillos, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, were each cleared of a single count of committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain between January 1, 2008, and December 31 last year.
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