Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi PAs cleared of fraud

Elisabetta Grillo, Francesca Grillo, Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi The sisters (left) were alleged to have spent £685,000 on credit cards

Nigella Lawson has said she is "disappointed but unsurprised" that two sisters who worked as her personal assistants have been cleared of fraud.

The trial of Francesca Grillo, 35, and sister Elisabetta, 41, heard they spent £685,000 on credit cards owned by the TV cook and ex-husband Charles Saatchi.

They claimed the TV cook allowed their spending to cover up her cocaine use.

Ms Lawson, 53, said her experience as a witness was "deeply disturbing" and she had been "maliciously vilified".

'Cannot forgive'

Following the verdict, Ms Lawson said: "Over the three-week trial the jury was faced with a ridiculous sideshow of false allegations about drug use which made focus on the actual criminal trial impossible.

"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."

She added: "Even more harrowing was seeing my children subjected to extreme allegations in court without any real protection or representation. For this I cannot forgive the court process."

Media pundits assess how court revelations may affect Nigella Lawson's career

Her ex-husband, the 70-year-old businessman and art dealer Mr Saatchi has yet to comment about the case.

During the trial, the jury was read extracts of an email he sent to his ex-wife in which he called her "Higella", in reference to drug use.

In the email he also wrote: "Of course now the Grillos will get off on the basis that you... were so off your heads on drugs that you allowed the sisters to spend whatever they liked and, yes, I believe every word the Grillos have said, who after all only stole money."

Giving evidence later in the trial, Mr Saatchi claimed it was a "terrible, terrible mistake" that the correspondence had become public.

'No drug problem'

Midway though the trial, Judge Robin Johnson warned the jury to ignore comments made in support of Ms Lawson in an interview given by Prime Minister David Cameron to the Spectator magazine.

Following Friday's not guilty verdicts, solicitor Richard Cannon said the Grillo sisters were "naturally relieved" by the verdict, following a "long, hard fight played out in the gaze of the world's media".

The trial at Isleworth Crown Court heard the sisters fraudulently used credit cards loaned to them by the couple, splashing out on designer goods from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

Analysis

This trial was always going to be a tabloid headline-writer's dream.

A TV celebrity with a squeaky clean image, allegations of drug taking, chaotic parenting and domestic violence, tales of fur coats costing £500,000 and even an intervention by the prime minister who claimed he too was a member of Team Nigella.

That earned him a rebuke from the trial judge.

This trial wasn't just a legal process - it became a battle for credibility.

On one side, two sisters from a village in Calabria introduced to a life of fame and money.

On the other - a household name - the "domestic goddess" and of course her millionaire art collector ex-husband, who we now know likes burnt toast and weak tea for breakfast.

But at the heart of the trial was a family bent out of shape by a marriage in freefall, where friendships too became poisoned by anger and jealousy and of course eye-watering amounts of money.

Francesca Grillo was accused of spending £580,000 on herself.

But she and her sister insisted all of their purchases had been authorised.

The Grillos claimed Ms Lawson consented to their spending as they were "intimately connected to her private life and were aware of the drug use which she wanted to keep from her then-husband Charles Saatchi".

Giving evidence, Ms Lawson admitted taking cocaine a handful of times with her late husband John Diamond and once during her marriage to Mr Saatchi.

She claimed her 10-year marriage to Mr Saatchi had become unhappy and drugs had made an "intolerable situation tolerable".

However, she denied being an addict or having a drug problem. The television cook said she was "not proud" but would rather be "honest and ashamed" about what she had done than lie about it.

She and Mr Saatchi split up after images emerged of his hand around Ms Lawson's throat at a London restaurant.

Ms Lawson told the trial she had taken drugs in the later years of her marriage to the multi-millionaire after being subjected to "intimate terrorism" by him.

Elisabetta Grillo, who was rushed to hospital on Thursday night after a panic attack, was with her sister in another room in the court as the verdicts were read out. She had collapsed again earlier as she arrived at the building.

Francesca, right, and Elisabetta Grillo The Grillo sisters each denied a single count of committing fraud

After hearing the verdicts, Francesca Grillo declared in Italian: "There is a God."

Speaking outside court, Mr Cannon said: "Elisabetta and Francesca would like to thank their friends and relatives for their love and support."

The Grillos, of Bayswater, west London, each denied a single count of committing fraud by using a company credit card for personal gain between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2012.

After the three-week trial, the jury of seven men and five women rejected the prosecution's claims that the purchases on the cards had been unauthorised.

Scotland Yard said it would not be investigating the drug-taking allegations made during the trial, although it said this could change if new evidence came to light.

More on This Story

BBC London

Weather

London

14 °C 5 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Live music 14:49: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Ian Prowse and Eimear McGeown perform on Robert Elms' show:

    Ian Prowse and Eimear McGeown
     
  2.  
    West Ham player dies 14:35:

    West Ham United has announced that forward Dylan Tombides has died at the age of 20.

    "Dylan passed away on Friday morning with his family by his side having courageously fought the disease for three years after initially being diagnosed with testicular cancer in summer 2011," says a statement on the club's website.

     
  3.  
    Things to do 14:25:

    Time Out highlights The Passion of Jesus in Trafalgar Square and the Family Weekend at Sadler's Wells.

     
  4.  
    Chanel shop robbery 14:10:

    A smash-and-grab raid took place at the Chanel shop in Brompton Road, Chelsea, shortly before 02:40, police say.

    A stolen Audi was reversed into the shop window and a number of handbags were stolen.

     
  5.  
    Easter getaway 13:55:

    London Paddington tweets: Please allow plenty of time for tickets and boarding trains as we are very busy today. Please check trains with @nationalrailenq thanks

     
  6.  
    Pulis ready to meet league 13:40:

    Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis is willing to meet the Premier League over claims his club were given Cardiff's team-sheet before they beat their rivals in early April.

    Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis

    He said: "I log every session that I do and I'll be taking those sessions up to the Premier League to show that I picked my team on the Monday before. That team was worked with for a week and there were no changes whatsoever."

     
  7.  
    Bullied children 13:25: BBC Radio 5 live

    Professor Louise Arsenault of King's College London discusses research which has found being bullied as a child can have consequences into people's fifties.

     
  8.  
    Ramsey nets young player nomination 13:10:

    Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey joins Chelsea player Eden Hazard, Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, Everton's Ross Barkley and Southampton's Luke Shaw in the PFA young player of the year nominations.

    Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey
     
  9.  
    Hazard up for player of the year 12:55:

    Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard has been nominated for the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year title.

    Eden Hazard

    He will need to beat Liverpool trio Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, Man City's Yaya Toure and Southampton's Adam Lallana if he is to pick up the award.

     
  10.  
    Council newspapers warning 12:40: BBC Radio 4

    Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is threatening to stop councils printing their own newspapers and giving them away free.

    One is Newham Borough Council. Its elected mayor Sir Robin Wales told the Today programme: "We've got the most diverse community in the world. We have a turn-round of 40% in four years - huge churn - and we have to get our messages out."

     
  11.  
    Good Samaritans sought 12:25:

    London24 reports that a teenager who was stabbed in the chest in Finsbury Park is trying to find the two men he says saved him. He said: "I would like to meet and thank them in person. I'm sure that I would not be here today if it wasn't for their help."

     
  12.  
    Roads warning 12:14:

    BBC London Travel tweets: #Westminster Good Friday parade leaving Storey's Gate at 12:15 for Westminster Cathedral via Broad Sanctuary and Victoria St ps #roads

     
  13.  
    Eurostar services normal again 12:06:

    Channel Tunnel rail services have returned to normal following disruption, Eurostar says.

    Annabel Troost is among those who have tweeted complaints: She wrote: @Eurostar I had to cancel my journey from London to Amsterdam last evening. Not great at all. Full refund and reaction appreciated.

    The firm told her it was sorry she had to cancel her trip and urged her to contact them.

     
  14.  
    Blues women beat Bristol 11:50:

    In the Women's Superleague, Chelsea beat Bristol Academy 2-0 thanks to two goals from Japan striker Yuki Ogimi.

    Yuki Ogimi
     
  15.  
    Robert Elms 11:35: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    From 12:00 on the programme, it's Funky Friday. Robert hears from the curator of John Deakin and the Lure of Soho at The Photographer's Gallery, and the Widow's Son pub in Bow where the annual hot cross bun ceremony is taking place later. Ian Prowse, who is playing The Borderline tonight, performs.

     
  16.  
    Channel Tunnel 11:19:

    Eurostar says it expects a normal service today after yesterday's delays, but trains will be busy. If you are booked to travel today you should check in as normal, but may wish to get there a bit earlier. This is the Twitter feed for information.

     
  17.  
    Bees buzzing for promotion bid 10:59: Ankur Desai Sport journalist, BBC London

    In League One, second placed Brentford play Preston and Leyton Orient travel to Crawley Town. If the Bees win and Orient and Rotherham both lose, Mark Warburton's side will be promoted into the Championship.

     
  18.  
    Canoe race delayed 10:46:

    The Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race has been delayed because of a "police incident".

    Wiltshire Police say it's an ongoing incident and don't know when the 125-mile marathon will be able to start. They have said they're considering starting it from another location but it won't be cancelled.

     
  19.  
    Overheard in the newsroom 10:29:

    "I think you could interview Jesus."

    Producer Jeremy Rawlins briefs reporter Tarah Welsh who is now heading to Trafalgar Square to report on the re-enactment of the Passion of Jesus by the Wintershall Players.

     
  20.  
    Channel Tunnel disruption 10:15:

    Technical problems and a fatality near Lille caused severe disruption in the Channel Tunnel yesterday.

    Disruption

    You can find details of Eurostar's disruption compensation here.

     
  21.  
    Engineering works on trains 09:59: Paul Murphy-Kasp Journalist, BBC London

    Engineering works will affect trains in and around London across the Easter weekend with no trains at Charing Cross and a very limited service from London Bridge.

    At Paddington, some lines will be closed which means changes on trains to Heathrow and the west of England, and on the East Coast main line some lines will be closed between Finsbury Park and Kings Cross meaning there is a very limited service.

    Services affected: Southeastern; First Capital Connect, Southern and Thameslink; First Great Western, Heathrow Connect and Heathrow Express; East Coast, First Hill trains and Grand Central trains.

     
  22.  
    Good Friday celebration 09:45:

    The Passion of Jesus is to be performed in Trafalgar Square by Wintershall Players at 12:00 and 15:15 today, recreating Christ's crucifixion and resurrection with a huge cast in historic dress.

    Cardinal Vincent Nichols will give the closing prayers at 13:15.

     
  23.  
    LATEST UPDATES
     
  24.  
    Today's sport 09:30: Ankur Desai Sport journalist, BBC London

    A busy weekend of bank holiday football kicks off later this afternoon on BBC London 94.9. Charlton will continue their battle against Championship relegation at 15:00 when they take on Bolton at The Valley.

     
  25.  
    Weekend weather 09:16:

    Watch Elizabeth Rizzini's Easter weather report here.

    Elizabeth Rizzini
     
  26.  
    Long weekends 09:00:

    Every weekend could be four days long with today's technology, writes David Spencer, Professor of Economics and Political Economy at the University of Leeds in The Conversation.

     
  27.  
    Nikki Bedi in for Vanessa Feltz 08:44: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Coming up from 09:00: The effects of childhood bullying in adult life - Elizabeth Kesses, author of The Ugly Girl Trilogy and Bea Appleby editor of Girl Talk magazine discuss the issue. And how would you feel about your child singing the national anthem every day at school?

     
  28.  
    Tube and Overground disruption 08:21:

    Disruption over the Easter period:

    • District Line: No trains between Ealing Broadway and Turnham Green from 20:45 tonight
    • Jubilee Line: No trains between Waterloo and Finchley Road
    • Piccadilly Line: No trains between Acton Town and Uxbridge from 20:50 tonight
    • Bakerloo Line: No trains between Harrow & Wealdstone and Willesden Junction on Easter Sunday
    • London Overground: No trains between Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction all weekend, and no trains between Watford Junction and Queens Park on Sunday.
    • DLR: No service between Stratford and Bow Church for a week from Good Friday
     
  29.  
    Looking good weather-wise today 08:06:

    It will be dry with long sunny spells, feeling quite pleasant by the afternoon with only light winds.

    Maximum temperature: 14C (57F).

     
  30.  
    08:00: Josephine McDermott BBC News Online

    Good morning from an empty central London. I'll be here throughout the day bringing you the latest news, sport, travel and weather for London.

    Regent Street

    You can tell me your news by emailing london.locallive@bbc.co.uk or tweeting @BBCLondonNews.

     

Features

Elsewhere on the BBC

  • Wall art Off the wall

    Belfast is shifting its creative focus - from unconventional street art to modern sculptures

Programmes

  • A motorised skateboadThe Travel Show Watch

    The motorised skateboard which can reach speeds of 17mph (27 km/h) and other travel technology

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.