Nigella Lawson allegedly abused drugs, UK court hears

Brooke Webb / Today
Celeb chef Nigella Lawson is expected to provide evidence when the trial begins.

Allegations of Nigella Lawson's extensive drug use have emerged in a lawsuit filed by her ex-husband, who is accusing two former personal assistants for the couple of stealing from them while the celebrity chef supposedly was high on drugs, according to reports by Britain's ITV.

Charles Saatchi says sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo committed fraud when they used a credit card Lawson gave them to buy extravagant things for themselves in exchange for keeping quiet about her drug habit.

Lawson and Saatchi's former assistants, sisters Elisabetta (R) and Francesca (C) Grillo, arrive at court in London on Wednesday.

Lawyers for the two sisters wanted Lawson’s alleged drug use to be introduced in the case as part of their defense. Anthony Metzer, an attorney for Elisabetta Grillo, said that his client and her sister were "innocent pawns in a rather unpleasant battle” between Saatchi and Lawson. He said Saatchi only learned about the drug allegations as the couple split up earlier this year.

A London judge revealed in court an email Saatchi sent to Lawson supposedly after finding out about his ex-wife's drug use and how their former assistants used the habit to their advantage, ITV said. He referred to Lawson at one point as 'Higella' and said she and her daughter “were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked, and yes, I believe every word they have said."

Judge Robin Johnson said Saatchi testified earlier this week in pre-trial proceedings that when he originally sent the email to Lawson he was "completely astounded by the scale of drug use” claimed by the defendants in court statements. 

"Nevertheless I did believe the allegations that I'm referring to in the email. I have been asked whether it referred to a belief that Nigella or the children permitted the sisters to spend whatever they liked," Saatchi said to the judge, according to ITV. "I can't remember precisely what I had in mind. On reflection, I was simply speculating that the sisters would use this information to defend themselves."

Dave M. Benett / Today
Lawson and advertising exec Saatchi divorced earlier this year.

Saatchi and Lawson split in a very public divorce earlier this year after the former advertising executive admitted to assaulting his spouse. The admission came after numerous photographs surfaced of him with his hands at Lawson's throat during what appeared to be a heated argument at a London restaurant.

ITV reports that Metzer suggested the argument may have been related to Lawson’s use of drugs and whether she gave their personal assistants permission to use the couple’s credit cards.

Metzer said his client has expressed “a culture of secrecy within Nigella Lawson's marriage,” and argued the defendants would not be able to receive a fair trial because of “a manipulation of the court process” by the celebrity couple, who continue to fight despite their divorce.

“It's a convenient forum for Mr. Saatchi and Miss Lawson to rehearse disputed issues between them ... in the criminal courts where, of course, the possibility of libel is not possible,” he said. “If Mr. Saatchi is telling the truth, then Miss Lawson is a habitual criminal.”

Lawson is expected to provide evidence during the trial when it begins. It is expected to last at least two weeks.

On Wednesday, she thanked her supporters in a tweet.