Nigella 'on drugs' is dubbed Higella
TWO kitchen assistants who used to work for British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson have alleged that she was a regular user of cocaine and other drugs, according to reports of a court hearing published by several national British media outlets on Tuesday.
The two women are being prosecuted for fraud and the allegation against Lawson forms part of their defence. The media reports said the allegation had been described in court by a prosecution lawyer as untrue and "totally scurrilous".
Lawson, often nicknamed the "Domestic Goddess" after the title of one of her best-selling recipe books, is a TV chef and cookery author who is popular in Britain and the United States.
She attracts a lot of media attention in Britain and her recent divorce from millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi made front-page news.
Lawson's two former assistants, Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, are accused of defrauding Mr Saatchi out of more than £300,000 (about S$610,000) during the period when they worked for Lawson and Mr Saatchi was still living with her.
They spent the amount on designer wear and first-class air travel.
The Grillo sisters have pleaded not guilty and part of their defence is that Lawson authorised them to make use of Mr Saatchi's credit card, in return for their silence about her drug-taking, according to the British media reports.
"In a nutshell, we submit that she had a guilty secret from her husband, her then husband," Mr Anthony Metzer, a lawyer for Elisabetta Grillo, told Isleworth Crown Court, according to the Daily Telegraph website.
"She did not want him to know of her use of cocaine and that is highly relevant to the defence case," Mr Metzer said.
The allegation is that Lawson used cocaine, cannabis and prescription pills "daily" for over a decade.
Ahead of the case being heard, Judge Robin Johnson read out an e-mail message where Mr Saatchi branded his former wife "Higella" and accused her of "poisoning" her daughter with drugs.
He claimed that their former employees would "get off" the charges because his former wife was abusing drugs with her 19-year-old daughter from her first marriage, Cosima Diamond, the Mirror reported. Lawson was married to journalist John Diamond, who died in 2001.
Mr Saatchi then accused Lawson of "trashing" her daughter's life in the letter, reports said.
Prosecuting lawyer Jane Carpenter was quoted as saying in the Daily Telegraph article: "This is a totally scurrilous account which has been raised by the defence."
She was quoted as telling the court that despite being arrested more than a year ago and charged in March, the Grillo sisters had first made the drugs allegation only earlier this month.