Belfast Telegraph

Monday 24 November 2014

Did no one ask Nigella if she was ok?

Heated row: Charles Saatchi was pictured grabbing wife Nigella Lawson by the throat
Heated row: Charles Saatchi was pictured grabbing wife Nigella Lawson by the throat

Of course, it's hard to know what really goes on in any marriage behind closed doors. But it's quite easy to know what's going on outside a London restaurant.

No matter that Charles Saatchi has attempted to play down those pictures of him with his hand around wife Nigella Lawson's neck, she still looks like a woman being bullied, threatened and humiliated.

Insisting there was "no grip, it was a playful tiff", Saatchi says the pair were having "an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella's neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point."

He adds: "The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. "

Let's hope so, because for all his protestations it's a very ugly looking scene. Indeed, so nasty the Met has confirmed that "inquiries are in hand to establish the facts of the incident".

Playful tiff? A humdinger of a row wouldn't get close to this. On four occasions Saatchi (70) reaches over to grab Nigella around the throat. In her eyes was a look of genuine fear – that same fear that haunts the eyes of thousands of women, and yes men, in abusive relationships.

On the surface, celebrity chef Nigella seems to have it all – a stellar career, adored by millions, still beautiful at 53. The fact that she found happiness again after the tragic death of first husband John Diamond only added to the fairytale.

But behind the public persona, there is an ordinary person like you and me, coping with, well, who knows what exactly?

Certainly, fellow diners appeared to be in no doubt as to what was happening – a woman was being abused.

One witness said: "He looked guilty. It was clear he knew he'd done something wrong. He was menacing, there's no question ..."

Horrified as onlookers were, they still did little to help Nigella.

Which is a pity because a good old-fashioned, er, intervention, might do the Charles Saatchis of this world a bit of good. If Saatchi had been behaving like that to a waiter, a client, a journalist, I dare say a member of the public would have stepped in, at least to ask if everything was ok? But a man and wife? That's a domestic issue. We tend to stay out of it even if what we're witnessing looks rather disturbing, to put it mildly.

Sometimes, even if we risk offence, looking foolish or, heaven forbid, spoiling the playful atmosphere, we need to ask "why have you got your hand round your wife's throat?"

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