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NIGELLA Lawson was yesterday forced into a dramatic courtroom confession of drug-taking.
Giving evidence to a packed but silent chamber, the TV cook said she had snorted cocaine and had even smoked cannabis in front of her children.
But she said she needed the drugs to cope with the death of her first husband, John Diamond, and the ‘intimate terrorism’ of her second, Charles Saatchi.
During seven hours of testimony, Miss Lawson, 53, was asked: ‘Are you or have you ever been a user of cocaine?’ She replied: ‘I have never been a drug addict. I have never been a habitual user. But there were times in my life when I used cocaine.’
She said she had used cannabis this year to deal with a ‘summer of abuse’. As well as smoking joints in front of the children, Miss Lawson said she used cannabis to help her sleep. But she repeatedly denied ever being ‘off her head’ with drugs.
The confessions came in the trial of two Italian sisters – Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo – accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of pounds from her and Mr Saatchi while in their service.
Miss Lawson complained from the witness box that she felt as if she was on trial herself – the victim of a ‘witch hunt’ orchestrated by her ex-husband following the throat-grabbing episode that drove them to divorce this summer.
She said she had snorted cocaine through rolled-up banknotes that Mr Diamond would iron afterwards and had kept a drawer full of prescribed sedatives.
She never experimented with drugs as a young woman, however, and insisted she was now free of drug use. ‘I did not and do not have a drug problem, I had a life problem. I decided to address that,’ she told the jury.
Her doctor, she said, was prepared to describe as ‘ridiculous’ Mr Saatchi’s claims that she was addled with drugs.
Miss Lawson’s testimony was her first public chance to dismiss allegations which, she maintains, were designed to blacken her reputation as her ten-year marriage to the wealthy advertising tycoon and art collector collapsed.
Dressed in black save for a demure white collar, she spoke in a clear, confident voice and wavered only once when she spoke about the impact of her bitter divorce on her children. At times she stood with hands on her hips, gunslinger style, in increasingly heated exchanges with Anthony Metzer QC, who was representing Elisabetta Grillo.
One drugs period came after Mr Diamond, who died in 2001, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, she said. Someone told the journalist that cocaine ‘would give him some escape’, she said, and she snorted it with him and others.
‘I, however, didn’t want escape because I needed to look after him and also earn a living.’ She took ‘small amounts’ on ‘maybe six occasions’.
In 2010, seven years into her marriage to Mr Saatchi, she took cocaine again during what she described as ‘a very difficult time’.
Flicking back her long brown hair she told the court: ‘I felt … how can I put this? ... subject to acts of intimate terrorism by Mr Saatchi. I felt totally shamed, isolated and in fear. Just unhappy.
‘A friend of mine offered me some cocaine. I took it. It completely spooked me. I went to my GP straight away.’
Miss Lawson described how she ‘smoked the odd joint … starting in the last year of my marriage to Mr Saatchi’. ‘I have to be honest, I have smoked the odd joint,’ she said. ‘I found it made an intolerable situation tolerable.
‘But it’s a false friend and not a good idea. I was trying to create a tolerable situation for me and my family. I have to say, since freeing myself from a brilliant but brutal man, I’m now totally cannabis, cocaine, any drug, free.’
Miss Lawson said she did not know how to roll a joint but had asked others in her house to do so: ‘This was not behaviour I’m proud of.’
Mr Metzer asked Miss Lawson in relation to cannabis: ‘Did you smoke with or in front of the children?’ Miss Lawson replied: ‘I’m afraid to say I did.’
She said Mr Saatchi was unaware she was smoking cannabis or had taken cocaine: ‘It was a one-off.’
In a drawer at the family home she kept Xanax anti-depressant and anti-anxiety tablets, prescribed by her doctor.
She robustly denied allegations she was ‘off her head’ for ten years, adding at one stage: ‘People who do that are a bit thinner than me.’
Miss Lawson stood throughout her testimony and used many of the animated hand gestures and facial expressions that have become familiar to millions through her TV cooking programmes as the ‘Domestic Goddess’.
On Wednesday her audience was five women and seven men on a jury at Isleworth Crown Court in London and global projection via the battalions of international TV crews.
But she repeatedly made the point that it felt as if she was on trial, rather than the Grillo sisters who sat 20ft from her in the dock to face fraud charges.
‘As a witness I’m kept in the dark,’ she told Mr Metzer in answer to a question. ‘This is like I’m on trial,’ she said. ‘It’s a witch hunt. I have no counsel; I have no rights.’
As she began giving evidence from the witness box, Miss Lawson was warned by Judge Robin Johnson that she did not have to answer questions that could leave her open to criminal prosecution – which could potentially include her drug allegations. The case continues. - Daily Mail