UK & World News

  • 20 December 2013, 12:11

Nigella Jury 'Can Return Majority Verdict'

The jury in the fraud trial of two sisters who worked for Nigella Lawson has been told it can return a majority verdict.

Judge Robin Johnson gave the jurors the direction on their second day of deliberations, saying at least 10 of them had to agree on each verdict.

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41, were not in the dock at Isleworth Crown Court, west London, as one was unwell and "very anxious", the judge has told the jurors.

The Grillos are 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 the TV cook and her multimillionaire art dealer ex-husband Charles Saatchi, who were divorced earlier this year.

The judge told the jurors today before he sent them out to deliberate: "You will notice that neither defendant is in the dock. They are in the building.

"One of them is not feeling well, is very anxious and you will appreciate that a criminal trial is a stressful business for many people, no more stressful than for the person on trial, in this case, herself.

"I have said that the defendants can be in another room while court proceedings proceed, with the consent of the barristers."

The jury of seven men and five women was sent out on Thursday morning after a three-week trial.

Mr Saatchi has been accused of using the trial against the Grillo sisters to "attack" his former wife.

Anthony Metzer QC, 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, each deny 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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