Aaron Davidson/Getty; Startraks
Phil Boucher
November 29, 2013 04:55 PM

On Friday, media mogul Charles Saatchi described himself as “utterly heartbroken” to have split from celebrity chef Nigella Lawson.

Speaking at the fraud trial of ex-employees Elisabetta “Lisa” Grillo and sister Francesca Grillo, Saatchi added that he still adored” his ex-wife, whom he divorced in July, shortly after he was pictured with his hands around Lawson’s throat at a London restaurant.

“I wish this last year had never happened,” Saatchi told Isleworth Crown Court in West London. “If you think I am taking any pleasure from this situation then you are greatly mistaken.”

The Grillo sisters have been accused of stealing more than $1,119,000 from Saatchi while working as personal assistants to Lawson. They deny fraudulently using a company credit card for personal gain.

Saatchi, who spoke softly throughout his four-hour appearance in a navy blue suit and white shirt, added that despite paying the monthly bills, he “didn’t authorize any of it.”

His Shocking Email Explained

Turning attention to his email which accused Lawson of being “off your head on drugs,” Saatchi added he considered the release of the message to be a “tragic mistake.” The art collector sent the original email to his ex-wife shortly after allegations surfaced that Lawson may have been abusing drugs. The email, which was recited in full to the jury, read: “I could only laugh at your sorry depravity.”

He added: “I am utterly bereft that this private note has come back to haunt us.”

Saatchi also wrote that he believed the Grillo sisters may be found innocent of fraud because Lawson was “so off her head.”

Despite this, Saatchi admitted that he had never personally seen any evidence that Lawson has taken drugs. Also, he said that Lawson never displayed any signs of being under the influence of narcotics either at home or while working on her cookbooks and TV shows.

Saatchi did, however, reveal a small glimpse of Nigella s post-split mental state. “In one of the rare conversations we have had since we split, I asked Nigella ‘Are you happy?’ ” Saatchi revealed under cross-examination.

“She said, ‘Yes. I am happy because I don’t feel as though I have to ask for a pass to do what I want any longer.’ ”

He also sought to explain the throat hold that was made so public by a set of photos taken at Scott’s restaurant in Mayfair earlier this year. He said he accepted the caution for assault but “was not gripping, throttling or strangling her.”

He claims that he was trying to get her to look at him. “I wanted her to focus on what we were talking about,” he said.

The case has been adjourned until Wednesday, Dec. 4. when Lawson is expected to take the stand.

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