updated 9 Dec 2013, 16:12
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Fri, Dec 06, 2013
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Nigella Lawson: Not proud of drug use but I'm not on trial

LONDON - British celebrity chef Nigella Lawson complained on Thursday that she was being treated more like a defendant than a witness in the trial of two assistants accused of defrauding her and ex-husband Charles Saatchi, after admitting she had taken cocaine.

Lawson, whose private life has been splashed across the front pages of newspapers this week during the trial, said she was "not proud" of her occasional use of cocaine and cannabis in the past.

But after repeated questioning about drug-taking as she appeared as a witness at Isleworth Crown Court in London, the 53-year-old self-styled 'Domestic Goddess' said: "I really feel if you want to put me on trial, put me on trial.

"I don't feel it is right to have me here as a witness for the crown and treat me like this."

Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo, former personal assistants to the celebrity couple, deny fraudulently spending 685,000 pounds (S$1.4 million) on designer clothes and handbags, first-class flights and taxi journeys.

The trial previously heard that Mr Saatchi, a multi-millionaire art collector, accused Lawson of being so "off her head" on drugs that the sisters were able to go on massive spending sprees with his company credit cards.

Francesca Grillo's lawyer Ms Karina Arden on Thursday accused Lawson of "very regular use of cocaine" which "escalated in the last five years".

But the glamorous TV chef repeatedly denied she was an addict, telling the court: "I promise you... regular cocaine users do not look like this.

"They are scrawny and look unhealthy."

She added: "If I was taking cocaine and cannabis to the extent you say, I wouldn't be standing here."

Lawson, who is famed for her flirtatious style of TV presenting and has made millions of pounds with her series and cookbooks, arrived at court in a storm of camera flashes.

She admitted in court on Wednesday that she had taken cocaine at two periods in her life, but said she had been drug-free since splitting from the "brilliant but brutal" Saatchi, 70, earlier this year.

The couple ended their 10-year marriage after paparazzi pictures showed him holding her throat at a London restaurant in June.

Lawson, the daughter of former finance minister Nigel Lawson, said she objected to a claim "peddled" by Mr Saatchi that the pictures showed him checking up her nose for cocaine.

"Mr Saatchi was not examining me for cocaine. That's a story he made up afterwards to clear his name," she told the court.

She said she had taken 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 Mr Saatchi.

She had also "smoked the odd joint" of cannabis to cope with the stress of her second marriage.

Speaking about the couple's relationship with their assistants, she admitted there were "no written-down rules" about the Grillos' use of Mr Saatchi's company credit cards.

She added that Francesca Grillo, 35, had a "good gig", with duties including fetching Mr Saatchi's iced coffees and sewing buttons on his suits.

Questioned about the cleaning of their home, Lawson said of the assistant: "She was the cleaner who never had to clean."

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