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Nigella faces drug probe

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Associated Press

Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson. Photo: AP

London - British police are reviewing evidence that celebrity chef Nigella Lawson took cocaine, they said on Sunday.

Claims that the self-styled Domestic Goddess was a habitual cocaine and cannabis user emerged during the trial of two personal assistants who were cleared Friday of defrauding Lawson and her ex-husband, the millionaire art collector Charles Saatchi.

Lawson, 53, insisted during the trial that she was not addicted to drugs and had only used cocaine and cannabis occasionally in the past.

London's Metropolitan Police said after the verdict that they would not be investigating the drug claims.

But on Sunday the force said a team of specialist officers would be reviewing the evidence, though there is “no imminent prospect” of Lawson being prosecuted.

“The Senior Investigating Officer received legal advice that the witness's admissions did not by themselves provide sufficient evidence to bring charges,” police said in a statement.

“On that basis therefore, and in absence of any other corroboration, there is no imminent prospect of a prosecution being mounted.

“As we said however, should any evidence come to light that can be investigated further, we will review this decision.”

Lawson, who has made millions with her TV series and cookbooks in Britain and the United States, is battling to restore her reputation after a trial which saw details of her private life splashed across the newspapers.

Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, Italian sisters who worked as assistants to Lawson and Saatchi, claimed she allowed them to spend £685 000 (about R11,5 million) on designer handbags, first-class flights and other luxuries in exchange for keeping quiet about her cocaine use.

The glamorous TV chef had lashed out at Saatchi in court for claiming she was so “off her head” on drugs that she had allowed the Grillos to spend whatever they liked.

Lawson had told the court she had only taken drugs during two periods of her life.

She said she took cocaine with her first husband John Diamond just before he died of cancer in 2001, as well as in 2010 when she was having a “very, very difficult time” in her marriage to Saatchi.

She had also “smoked the odd joint” of cannabis to cope with the stress of her relationship with the art dealer.

The couple's decade-long marriage ended this year after shocking photographs emerged of Saatchi gripping Lawson around the throat at a London restaurant.

Saatchi, 70, accepted a police caution over the incident but insisted he had not been violent.

Lawson, the daughter of former finance minister Nigel Lawson, complained during the assistants' trial that she was treated more like a defendant than a witness, after their lawyers repeatedly grilled her about the drug allegations. - AFP

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