Personal assistants acquitted of defrauding Lawson, ex-husband of more than $1 million

By Andrea Billups
December 20, 2013 11:10 AM
W8 Media/Splash News Online

Celebrity chef Nigella Lawson had some choice words for a verdict announced Friday in which two personal assistants were acquitted of defrauding her and media mogul ex-husband Charles Saatchi.

Lawson called the three-week trial a “ridiculous sideshow of false allegations of drug use."

In a statement, the chef said questions about her own recreational drug use, which she admitted during trial testimony, “made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible.”

Personal assistants Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, Italian sisters who had worked for the family for years, were acquitted on charges of using Saatchi’s company credit card and racking up more than $1 million in personal charges. They did not deny the card use but said it was done with permission.

Lawson, 53, who was candid during her testimony, spoke out against her treatment in court, calling the experience, which some have argued has done deep damage to her public image, “deeply disturbing.”

“When false claims about habitual drug use were introduced I did everything possible to ensure the CPS was aware of the sustained background campaign deliberately designed to destroy my reputation,” Lawson said. “During the trial not one witness claimed to see me take drugs and not one of my three assistants was asked about these claims by the defense, despite being cross-examined at length. I did my civic duty, only to be maliciously vilified without the right to respond.”

Lawson said that she regretted being forced to speak publicly about the end of her marriage and called it “harrowing” for her children to see her face such allegations at trial “without any real protection or representation.”

“For this, I cannot forgive the court process,” Lawson noted, thanking supporters and family who stood by her during a tough time.