Saatchi 'heartbroken' over split
Charles Saatchi has told a court he is "utterly heartbroken at having lost Nigella", telling jurors: "I absolutely adore" her.
When asked if he believed allegations that his former wife Miss Lawson was a habitual cocaine user whose mind was so "addled with drugs" she allowed their staff to spend what they liked, the art dealer said: "Not for a second."
Giving evidence in the trial of two of his former personal assistants, Mr Saatchi said it was a "terrible, terrible mistake" that a private email he sent to the TV chef, referring to her as "Higella", and claiming she had been off her head on drugs, has been made public.
Mr Saatchi said: "I'm utterly bereft that this private email to Nigella has come back to haunt us both."
Isleworth Crown Court in west London previously heard that Italian sisters Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo are accused of using credit cards loaned to them by the celebrity couple to spend more than £685,000 on themselves.
Jurors listened intently as details of the breakdown of Mr Saatchi and Miss Lawson's 10-year marriage were played out in the court room, taking centre stage over the allegations against the defendants.
The multi-millionaire, who went through a high-profile divorce from the food writer earlier this year, told the court: "I adore Nigella now. I absolutely adore Nigella and I'm broken-hearted to have lost her. I wanted her to be happy."
Mr Saatchi looked exasperated as the now infamous incident outside Scott's restaurant in Mayfair, central London, where he was photographed holding Miss Lawson by the throat, was brought up at least twice during cross-examination.
Anthony Metzer QC, representing Elisabetta, 41, asked whether it was during an argument about her taking drugs.
"I accepted a caution for assault," he said.
"I was not gripping, strangling or throttling her. I was holding her head by the neck to make her focus, can we be clear?
"Was it about her drug use? No."
Asked by Mr Metzer to explain what he meant in the email he sent Miss Lawson on October 10, in which he said he could "only laugh at your sorry depravity", Mr Saatchi said: "I was very upset. I wasn't laughing, I was broken-hearted."
Jurors heard the email went on: "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.
"But I'm sure it was all great fun and now everything is perfect - bravo, you have become a celebrity hostess on a global TV game show. And you got the Pass you desired, free to heartily enjoy all the drugs you want, forever. Classy."
Referring to claims that his wife of 10 years was so high on drugs she not aware what she had or had not permitted the sisters to buy, he said: "The stories that the Grillos were parading was that Nigella had a severe cocaine habit that stretched back a very long time for the entirety of our marriage.
"What I was speculating here was that the Grillos would use this as a defence.
"Why this went any further than to Nigella - she must have thought there was an agenda she thought this would serve," he added.
Questioned about the drug-taking allegations, Mr Saatchi told the court: "It was hearsay. I personally have absolutely no knowledge that Nigella has ever taken a drug ever.
"I don't like drugs at all and I didn't like reading what the Grillos said was the culture in my house."
During intense questioning from Mr Metzer later on, Mr Saatchi said: "Are you asking me whether I think that Nigella truly was off her head?
"Not for a second. Over this whole period she was writing books very successfully.
"I have never, never seen any evidence of Nigella taking any drug whatsoever."
Mr Saatchi described the "Higella" reference as a "silly pun".
He was also asked about why he wrote in the email that his ex-wife now had a "free pass".
Mr Saatchi told jurors: "In one of the very rare conversations I've had with Nigella since we split, I asked her whether she was happy.
"And she said she was happy. She said 'I'm happy because I don't feel I have to ask for a pass to do what I feel like doing'.
"And I said to her 'You never had to ask for a pass, you could do whatever you liked. If you wanted to have a girls' night or go to a party then you were free to do so. What do you mean?'
"I was just being nasty," he added.
"This is not a very pleasant email but I was very, very upset.
"What I gathered was now that she was divorced from me she was free to do whatever she wants."
Mr Saatchi, who chose to sit down to give his evidence, had to be asked several times to speak up so everyone in the packed court room could hear him.
He repeatedly apologised, telling jurors: "I'm so sorry. I have a quiet voice, I'll do you a better effort."
Wearing a dark blue suit with no tie and black loafers, he spoke softly as he recounted details of his much speculated upon split from Miss Lawson.
But he rolled his eyes as he was asked about his friendship with TV presenter Trinny Woodall.
Looking pained at being questioned about the Scott's incident again, Judge Robin Johnson said he could not see the relevance of going over the topic.
"Oh, thank you so much," Mr Saatchi said.
Speaking of his life before the breakdown, Mr Saatchi said: "It was a happy home where everyone just buzzed around happily."
The 70-year-old said Miss Lawson was "generous" to all her employees, adding: "The staff all adored her."
The Saatchi Gallery owner admitted he had "no interest" in the financial side of his business, telling jurors that when the defendants' alleged fraud first came to his attention: "I rather foolishly thought I would overlook it as them getting carried away and being naughty."
He said he and his ex-wife were "very fond" of the sisters, adding: "It gives me great pain to see them in this situation."
It is alleged that the Grillo sisters lived the "high life", spending the money on designer clothes and handbags from Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Vivienne Westwood.
The defendants, both of Kensington Gardens Square, Bayswater, west London, deny the charge against them.
It is alleged that between January 1 2008 and December 31 2012, they committed fraud by abusing their positions as PAs by using a company credit card for personal gain.
Miss Lawson is expected to give evidence in the trial next Wednesday.