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Nigella's drug challenge to court


Nigella Lawson is giving evidence in the trial of her former personal assistants

Nigella Lawson is giving evidence in the trial of her former personal assistants

Nigella Lawson is giving evidence in the trial of her former personal assistants

Nigella Lawson told a court "If you want to put me on trial, put me on trial" today as she repeatedly denied being a "regular cocaine user".

The celebrity cook, who has admitted using cocaine and cannabis in the past, denied stashing the class A drug in a box containing her late husband's wedding rings as she gave evidence in the fraud trial of two of her former personal assistants.

"I promise you... regular cocaine users do not look like this. They are scrawny and look unhealthy. If you think I'm going to sabotage my health and leave my children as orphans, you are very wrong," she said.

Nigella continued: "I have no sense of being a drug taker of a habitual nature. I have owned up to drug use.

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

As questions of her drug use continued, she 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."

Karina Arden, representing defendant Francesca Grillo, accused Nigella of "very regular use of cocaine" which "escalated in the last five years".

"That is categorically not the case," Nigella replied. "My GP has seen me over a period of 10 to 12 years and he would know if these allegations held any truth."

She denied she kept cocaine in a hollow "fake book" alongside jewellery given to her by her mother and two grandmothers.

The jewellery box also contained wedding rings she exchanged with her late husband John Diamond, including one he received after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, the court heard.

Nigella's daughter and a friend discovered the box containing cocaine and called Francesca Grillo, who "tried to make up some sort of excuse to cover your back", Ms Arden put to her.

"No, I have never heard that," she replied.

The food writer was "in a high state of panic" after the book went missing when she moved house, Ms Arden added.

"I was in a high state of anxiety because I thought I had lost my late grandmothers' and late husband's jewellery and wedding rings," Nigella replied. "It does not need embellishment."

Nigella said it was "completely wrong" to suggest that she frequently came downstairs at her home with white powder on her face or had a constant runny nose. She admitted once joking about having a "cocaine habit" with a staff member as she applied make up.

Jurors were previously read an email sent to Nigella from Charles Saatchi in which he said the defendants would "get off" on the basis that she was "so off her head" on drugs she allowed them to "spend whatever they liked".

Earlier Nigella accused her multi-millionaire ex-husband of "peddling" stories about her alleged drug habit, including that he was checking her nose for cocaine when he was photographed gripping her throat outside Scott's restaurant in central London.

Nigella said one of the reasons she did not start libel proceedings against Mr Saatchi was because she "can't afford it".

"I don't have a substantial fortune," she said. "I feel this is my last connection with him. I don't appreciate being bullied and I have been bullied."

She denied making a "promise" to Charles about not taking drugs during their marriage after she told him of her past cocaine use with her late husband.

The 53-year-old revealed yesterday she first took the class A drug with John when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion later during her troubled marriage to Charles.

Earlier, Nigella told the court she would rather be "honest and ashamed" than "bullied with lies" after revealing details of her past drug use.

The TV cook said she was "not proud" after admitting she has taken cocaine and cannabis but denied her admission was "damage limitation".

"I'm not proud of the fact I have taken drugs but that does not make me a drug addict or a habitual drug user," she said. " The fact is I would rather be honest and ashamed....I wasn't going to be bullied with lies."

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, sometimes referred to as Lisa, 41, are accused of committing fraud by abusing their positions by using a company credit card for personal gain.

Prosecutors claim the Italian sisters lived the ''high life'', spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.

The pair are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the TV cook and her ex-husband Charles to spend more than £685,000 on themselves between 2008 and 2012, the jury has heard.

A teenage witness, who cannot be named, told the court that Francesca "claimed she was a shopaholic".

The boy said: "She claimed she was a shopaholic and she also tried to blame a lot of spending on her sister Lisa."

The Grillo sisters, of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the charge against them.

The trial was adjourned until Tuesday.