A ghost of Christmas past came to haunt celebrity chef Nigella Lawson this past holiday season. Her former personal assistants, Italian sisters Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, accused her of being regularly high on cocaine, marijuana and other drugs during the last decade. The story unfolded this past November in a dramatic court case at Isleworth Crown Court in London, where the sisters were on trial for fraud.
The months before the trial
Nigella’s publicity problems began in June 2013, when salacious photos surfaced of her and then-husband Charles Saatchi having a public spat at a London restaurant. In the photos, Saatchi was caught on camera with his hand around her throat, pointing to obvious tension in the couple’s marriage and raising questions of physical abuse.
The two divorced a few weeks later, after nearly 10 years of marriage.
Nigella Lawson accused of being a “daily drug user”
Meanwhile, more drama was brewing for Nigella.
After discovering that the former couple’s personal assistants racked up £685,000 (more than $1.1 million) in credit card charges, Charles Saatchi brought the Grillo sisters to court. Among the purchases were designer goods from the likes of Prada and Louis Vuitton, as well as plane tickets and hotel fares.
The November court case alleged that the former personal assistants fraudulently spent the money on themselves without permission, but the sisters wove a different tale.
The Grillos purported that purchases made using the cards were all authorized, and that the children of the household (either Saatchi’s, Lawson’s or both) attended the trips they took. But, it was the terms of the “authorization” that dragged Nigella’s name through the mud once more. According to The Guardian, the court heard claims from the assistants that Lawson was a “daily drug user, taking cocaine as well as class B drugs and prescription medicines over more than a decade.” In exchange for their silence, the Grillos told the court, they were permitted to spend as much as they liked.
Admitting cocaine use in a court of a law
She originally tried to get out of testifying, but Nigella did ultimately take the stand that November. Although she admitted to using cocaine on multiple occasions, she denied having an addiction. On the stand, she told the court: “I’ve never been a drug addict, I’ve never been an habitual user… I did not have a drug problem, I had a life problem.”
Despite her brave and presumably difficult admission, the court sided with the Grillos, acquitting them of fraud charges.
What’s next for Nigella Lawson?
Much of their story was never backed by hard evidence, but the acquittal of the Grillo sisters proves that their version of events was at least believable. While she maintains she was never addicted to cocaine or any other drugs, Nigella’s story, unfortunate as it may be, is the one that’s been doubted in the media. Still, she’s picked up the pieces and is moving on.
Nigella is currently on a “PR offensive,” as the Mirror calls it, tweeting new recipes, plugging her new show and busily getting back to work.
Whether her sobriety will remain intact remains to be seen, but the fact that she’s working hard and visibly trying to stay in good graces is a positive sign.
If you’re struggling to admit an addiction of your own, or seeking solutions to help a loved one in need of addiction rehabilitation, please get help. Contact The Watershed any time: 1-800-861-1768.