The Grillo sisters: Nigella's 'kitchen confidantes'

Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo Elisabetta and Francesca Grillo spent thousands on luxury holidays and designer clothes

In her 2011 book, Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home, Nigella Lawson wrote, "I give heartfelt thanks to... my kitchen confidantes: Lisa and Francesca Grillo".

The pair had been working for the celebrity chef for years and were considered like "family".

But two years after Ms Lawson publicly thanked them, the Grillos were appearing in court accused of fraud.

The trial heard the sisters - who arrived in the UK from Calabria, in Italy, in 1999 and worked as personal assistants to Ms Lawson - had been spending tens of thousands of pounds each month on luxury holidays and designer clothes.

They claimed the spending, which totalled £685,000, had been authorised by Ms Lawson in return for them not revealing her drug use to her second husband Charles Saatchi.

'A stalwart'

Elisabetta, 41, who is also known as Lisa, had known Ms Lawson since 1999 when she began working as a nanny for the food writer in her family home in Shepherd's Bush, west London. In 2001 she was joined by her sister Francesca, 35.

Ms Lawson described Elisabetta as "a stalwart" in court, who helped her through the death of her first husband, journalist John Diamond.

"She came to me at a very difficult time in my life," Ms Lawson told the court. "She was a rock. I would have done anything for her."

When Ms Lawson married Charles Saatchi in 2003 the sisters stayed with the family, but their role changed as the couple's children grew older.

Mr Saatchi told the jury: "The truth is, there was no real need for us to keep them both on but we both liked them very much and we found work for them."

The sisters were employed as personal assistants and given a variety of duties including - Elisabetta claimed - travelling around London buying copies of one of Mr Saatchi's books, in order to push it up the bestseller list.

Nigella Lawson In court Nigella Lawson denied being an addict or having a drug problem

The court was told Francesca worked long hours and "lived and breathed" the couple, while Ms Lawson confided in Elisabetta when her marriage to Mr Saatchi became strained.

However, there were tensions in the house and in 2004 Elisabetta moved out and took another job.

She told the court: "I wanted to be out of the house... it was stressful because Charles was not easy."

She returned three and a half years later after working as a sales assistant at a shoe company, but despite returning to the pay roll, Elisabetta chose not to live with the couple.

Asked why she went back to work for the family, Elisabetta told the jury: "I thought it might be better but it got worse."

Her unhappiness was noted by Ms Lawson, who told the court her attitude became "increasingly bitter" as time went on.

'Jail better than Battersea'

In 2012 Mr Saatchi's accountant, Rahul Gajjar, noticed spending on the Grillo sisters' credit cards had rocketed. Francesca had been running up an average monthly bill of £48,000, while Elisabetta spent £28,000.

The Grillos' credit card purchases

  • £4,700 on flights to New York
  • £2,000 on hotels in New York
  • £1,280 at the Ritz hotel, Paris
  • £723 Chloe dress
  • £5,385 at Miu Miu London
  • £2,650 at designer store Prada

These included Francesca spending £64,000 in June 2012 on luxury holidays and designer clothes from Miu Miu and Prada. However, she told the court the purchases had been authorised by Ms Lawson, who "was extremely generous".

Mr Gajjar said he challenged the sisters over their spending and they were at first apologetic. However, when he wrote to the pair outlining how they should repay the debt, Elisabetta complained they were "being treated worse than Filipino slaves".

As part of a repayment plan, they were also offered the chance to live rent-free in Ms Lawson's house in Battersea, south-west London. However, Mr Saatchi told the court Francesca refused, declaring: "I'd rather go to jail than go to Battersea".

Meanwhile, Francesca said Mr Saatchi had warned her: "Hide anywhere in Italy but I will find you and destroy you".

'Off your head'

During the trial the sisters claimed that they had a "tacit understanding" with Ms Lawson that they could keep spending as long as they did not "shop her" drug use to Mr Saatchi.

The jury heard that Elisabetta never confronted Ms Lawson about her drug use as she "did not want to embarrass her".

In court Francesca said she had not seen Ms Lawson taking drugs, but she had regularly found rolled up bank notes with white powder on them in Ms Lawson's handbag.

Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson were married in 2003 but divorced 10 years later

Giving evidence, Ms Lawson admitted taking cocaine a handful of times with her first husband when he was terminally ill and once during her marriage to Mr Saatchi. She denied having a drug problem or being an addict.

Mr Saatchi told the court he had "no proof" his ex-wife ever took drugs, although the court was read an email he sent her in which he accused her of being "so off your head on drugs" she had allowed staff to spend "whatever they liked".

The Grillos said their former employers had not spoken to them since they were arrested in August 2012, but the sisters were convinced they had done nothing wrong.

"I still think I was allowed," said Elisabetta.

"And I was allowed, Nigella told me. I felt I was right. I am right."

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

BBC London

Weather

London

29 °C 17 °C

BBC Local Live

  1.  
    Nursery closed 15:28:

    A nursery in Kingston, south-west London, has been closed temporarily by Ofsted over an investigation into 'safeguarding concerns', Surrey Comet reports.

    A spokesman for Active Learning Kingston in Victoria Road parents were informed last night about the indefinite closure.

     
  2.  
    Ealing 'to feel the squeeze' 15:18:

    Ealing residents are being warned there will be a major squeeze on council budgets over the next five years after an unprecedented savings target of £96m by April 2019 was outlined, reports the Ealing Times.

     
  3.  
    'Lockouts' would risk safety 15:07:

    Fiona Twycross, London Assembly Labour Group Fire spokesperson, has called Boris Johnson's move to 'lockout' firefighters as "deliberately antagonistic".

    She said: "This a narrow minded, politically motivated decision from the Mayor. What is worse, locking firefighters out like this will pose a genuine risk to the safety of Londoners. "

    But Mr Johnson said: "I don't think there is any compromise of safety nor would I tolerate such a thing."

     
  4.  
    'Lockouts' for striking firefighters 14:55:

    London Assembly members learned this morning that Mayor Boris Johnson has asked London's fire authority to consider proposals to dock the pay of firefighters who take strike action.

    Firefighter strike

    The practice of "locking out" for an entire 12-hour shift would prevent firefighters from returning to work if they walk out midway through a shift. The proposal was discussed and rejected last week and the mayor's intervention has angered assembly members.

     
  5.  
    Video: 'Build on empty sites' 14:45:

    More should be done to make landowners build houses on empty sites in London, according to the Guardian's London journalist Dave Hill.

    He believes it is time local politicians were given extra powers. According to the Greater London Authority more than 200,000 homes could be created if developers were made to build on land they owned.

     
  6.  
    Elephant puppets 14:35: Brenda Emmanus Journalist, BBC London

    tweets: Had chat with #Warhorse puppeteer #TobyOlie about his work and latest project #Elephantom@BBCLondonNews 6.30

    Elephantom
     
  7.  
    Let's fly away 14:21:

    It is estimated about 450,000 passengers will be depart from Heathrow, 295,000 from Gatwick, 140,000 from Stansted and 79,000 from Luton this weekend as Britons head overseas for the summer, travel organisation Abta said.

    This August, planned closures on West Coast Main Line, London Midland services, and work at London Bridge station, used by First Capital Connect or Southern services, will mean significant disruption for passengers.

     
  8.  
    Unusual child rescues 14:11:

    London Fire Brigade's Dave Brown said: "When we are releasing children from under tables and out of TV speakers it diverts our attention from other emergencies."

    In 2013-14 LFB dealt with:

    • About 500 children being locked inside toilets and bathrooms
    • 133 children stuck in trees
    • 50 children locked in cars
    • 24 children with a hand stuck in a letter box
     
  9.  
    The Paddington Trail 13:54:

    Fifty Paddington Bear statues will be placed across London from October taking in landmarks, museums, parks and shops, ahead of the release of a film about him in November.

    Paddington Bear

    The Paddington Trail, announced by VisitLondon.com, the NSPCC and Studiocanal, will follow in the footsteps of the stowaway bear in Michael Bond's original tales.

     
  10.  
    Fire on Basinghall Street 13:40:

    Four fire engines and 21 firefighters are tackling a fire at an office in Basinghall Street in The City of London, London Fire Brigade has said.

    LFB were called at 12:19 and it is believed a room in the basement is alight. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

     
  11.  
    Unusual child rescues 13:30:

    London Fire Brigade has urged parents to keep an eye on their children after the brigade spent about £240,000 in the last five years rescuing children.

    Last year firefighters were called to rescue a child in Bromley with its head stuck in a potty, while some other examples include being stuck up a tree, wedged in a statue and trapped under a slide.

    There were 1,508 incidents last year and 8,189 incidents over the last five years, which amounts to about five call-outs a day.

     
  12.  
    'More experienced players' for Fulham 13:20:

    Fulham manager Felix Magath says he wants to add another "two or three experienced players" to his "very young" squad before the start of the new Championship season.

    Felix Magath Felix Magath says the current squad is very young

    The recently-relegated Cottagers have already signed six players this summer, including forward Ross McCormack.

     
  13.  
    Fire on Basinghall Street 13:08:

    London Fire Brigade tweets: "We have been called to a fire on Basinghall Street in EC2. We've sent four fire engines to the scene. More when we get it."

     
  14.  
    Lunchtime news 12:54: Alex Bushill BBC London News

    On BBC London News at 13:30: locking out firefighters who walk out on strike halfway through their shift - Mayor Boris Johnson has commissioned a report to see how it could be done.

    And the cyclist, who broke his back riding across Europe, retraces his journey this time peddling by hand.

     
  15.  
    Mitcham crash injures man 12:43:

    A man in his 20s was treated for chest injuries following a collision between a car and a motorbike this morning, reports the Wandsworth Guardian.

    London Ambulance Service was called to London Road, close to the junction with Victoria Road in Mitcham at 7.25am.

     
  16.  
    On this day 12:29:

    In 2012, cyclist Sir Chris Hoy was named as Great Britain's flagbearer for the opening ceremony of the London Olympics.

    Sir Chris Hoy carries the flag during the opening ceremony Sir Chris Hoy carries the flag during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Games

    The Scottish cyclist went on to win two gold medals at the Games, making him Britain's most successful Olympian of all time with six medals.

     
  17.  
    Robert Elms show 12:19: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Robert chats with former QPR player Mark Perry, who has just set off on a cycle ride to Paris to raise money for Great Ormond Street Hospital.

    Tattoo artist Claudia de Sabe will be in the studio to talk about a new exhibition at Somerset House which will showcase original artworks from 70 of the world's most influential tattoo artists.

     
  18.  
    Payout for Worboys' victims 12:12:

    Mr Justice Green gave the Met permission to appeal but said it had been agreed the damages would not be recouped should the appeal succeed.

    "For the police force, wider issues are at stake but, at the same time, this enables DSD and NBV to move forward with their lives with greater financial security."

     
  19.  
    Payout for Worboys' victims 12:01:

    Between 2002 and 2008, John Worboys, who was jailed for life in 2009, carried out more than 100 rapes and sexual assaults using alcohol and drugs to stupefy his victims, said Mr Justice Green at London's High Court.

    John Worboys John Worboys was jailed in 2009 for a string of sex attacks on women in his taxi

    In November he ruled the Met was liable to the women for failures in its investigation and today he said that DSD and NBV, who brought their claims under Article 3 of the Human Rights Act, which relates to inhuman or degrading treatment, should receive 22,250 and £19,000 respectively.

     
  20.  
    Payout for Worboys' victims 11:57: BREAKING NEWS

    Two women who were seriously sexually assaulted by London cabbie John Worboys have been awarded compensation totalling £41,250 from the Metropolitan Police.

    One of the women, identified only as DSD, was the first of Worboys' victims to make a complaint to the Met in 2003, while the other, NBV, contacted them after she was attacked in July 2007.

     
  21.  
    Richmond cyclist named 11:54:

    A cyclist who died after a collision with a rubbish lorry in Richmond on Monday has been named as Henry Lang, 40, from Twickenham.

    Mr Lang was struck on the A316 Kew Foot Road at the junction with St John's Grove. He was taken to hospital but died yesterday from serious head injuries. The driver of the dustcart, who stopped at the scene, was not arrested.

     
  22.  
    Crossrail delivered on time? 11:43:

    MPs have praised the £15.8bn Crossrail project but have warned there are "considerable risks" in delivering the scheme by its target of 2019. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said it was a "textbook example of how to get things right".

    The line will see trains running from Reading in Berkshire to the west of London and as far east as Shenfield in Essex.

     
  23.  
    Paparazzi payout for Adele's son 11:33:

    Lawyers for Angelo Adkins, the two-year-old son of London singer Adele, have accepted a five-figure sum in damages at the High Court over paparazzi photos which were taken last year.

    Adele

    "It is a matter of profound sadness that many of his milestone moments, such as his first family outing and his first trip to playgroup, were photographed and published worldwide expressly against his family's wishes", solicitor Jenny Afia said.

    Corbis Images UK Limited had offered to pay damages and legal costs to Angelo.

     
  24.  
    Congestion on A406 11:20:

    BBC London Travel tweets: Sth Woodford #A406 Underpass clsd e/bnd at Waterwork's jct A104 due accident Congestion back to Cooksferry ps #roads

     
  25.  
    Public sector workers' strike 11:15:

    Local government and school support workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will walk out for a second time on 30 September, in disputes over pay, pensions and cuts.

    Hundreds of schools in London were closed on 10 July when more than a million public sector workers took strike action.

     
  26.  
    Live council meetings 11:02:

    Full council meetings in Redbridge could be broadcast live, according to the East London and West Essex Guardian.

     
  27.  
    Which sport? 10:55: Debabani Majumdar BBC London News

    Apparently I am best suited for hockey, rugby sevens and wrestling - none of which I have ever tried and not very convinced about, but might be tempted to now.

    As the Commonwealth Games begins today why not take the which sport are you made for test to see what sports match your physical and mental abilities.

     
  28.  
    Olympian's laptop stolen 10:46:

    Snowboarder Jenny Jones has appealed for help after her laptop, which had all of her photographs of her Olympic success was stolen from her car in Hammersmith, west London.

    Jenny Jones with her Olympic bronze medal Jenny Jones with her Olympic bronze medal

    The 34-year-old, who became the first Briton to win an Olympic medal in a snow event tweeted: "Had my MacBook Air stolen last night, Riverside studios Hammersmith area. It has ALL my Olympic photos on it... Please keep ear to ground x"

     
  29.  
    'Yuppie ghetto' claim 10:39:

    The Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales has criticised London Mayor Boris Johnson's plans for a "floating village" of luxury homes, restaurants and offices on the Royal Victoria Dock, London Evening Standard reports.

    Sir Robin has called for a total rethink on what he says would be a new "yuppie ghetto" in east London.

     
  30.  
    Sexual assault arrest 10:27:

    A 61-year-old man arrested yesterday on suspicion of sexually assaulting a child by officers probing historic child abuse allegations at two top London public schools has been released on bail until October.

    The man was arrested by officers from Operation Winthorpe, which is investigating claims of sexual abuse and misconduct at St Paul's School in Barnes, south-west London, and its prep school Colet Court.

     
  31.  
    'Heavy-handed' arrest of ex-cleaner 10:17:

    Twenty officers were used to arrest a government minister's illegal immigrant ex-cleaner at her daughter's wedding in north London, it has emerged.

    Keith Vaz Keith Vaz criticised way the woman was arrested

    Labour MP Keith Vaz has accused the Home Office of using heavy-handed tactics to arrest Isabella Acevedo. But immigration enforcement chief Mandie Campbell told MPs their action was based on a "risk assessment".

     
  32.  
    University or self-employment? 10:02: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    Thanks for your comments on Facebook to Vanessa Feltz's question on whether more school leavers should consider university or self-employment.

    Nick Kellingley said: "Setting up a business requires skills most undergrads don't have. The entrepreneurial life is a hard one... and it would be much, much harder at 18 with no real skills or experience to offer."

    Amber Threapleton said: "There should be a full range of options for our young people instead of just pushing university at them. However they need back up. I have been self employed for 7 years and it's a tough gig - rewarding too in many ways."

     
  33.  
    Benedict's waxy performance 09:44:

    "What a weird and wonderful compliment. I have been accused of being wooden in my work, but never waxy," says actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who is being measured up to become a waxwork at Madame Tussauds in October.

    Benedict Cumberbatch
     
  34.  
    Cap on child benefit? 09:35: via Facebook

    Vanessa Feltz is asking whether there should be a cap on child benefit following news of a family of 17 from Romania living in Harrow, north-west London on £55,000 a year benefits.

    Simon McDonnell says: "It's awful that we have to consider capping when children's welfare are involved, but some parents are using reproduction as a way to live of the state."

    Iain M Hambling says: "I'm a private landlord, I take in tenants from the local authorities 'at risk' register. In every case, I take in a young mother (16-19) with a new baby, the council pays their rent, by the time they leave to be rehoused in a local authority house they have at least 3 babies... they know how to abuse the system."

     
  35.  
    Train delays 09:31:

    National Rail says a signalling problem between Stratford and London Liverpool Street is causing delays of up to 15 minutes to trains between Stratford and London Liverpool Street.

    Abellio Greater Anglia trains, which have been affected, tweets: #Stratford - some mainline services will be terminated and started from Stratford and Shenfield. JH

     
  36.  
    Self-employed or university? 09:27: BBC London 94.9 Radio

    This morning Vanessa Feltz is asking should more school-leavers consider self-employment over university?

    Call us on 020 722 42000 or email Vanessa@bbc.co.uk.

     
  37.  
    On this day 09:13:

    On this day last year the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge emerged from the Lindo Wing of St Mary's Hospital in London with their new baby son George to cheers from well wishers.

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with their son

    The prince celebrated his first birthday yesterday.

     
  38.  
    Have your say 09:04:

    We've introduced BBC Local Live to bring you the latest news, sport, travel and weather all in one place. Tell us what you think.

     
  39.  
    Putney traffic lights failure 08:54:

    Traffic lights have failed on either side of Putney Bridge, which is closed until October for maintenance.

    The signals are out on the north side, on Putney Bridge Approach, and on the south side, on Putney High Street. For the latest travel information visit BBC London's travel page.

     
  40.  
    Arrest over lorry death 08:46:

    A seventh man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery and manslaughter over the death of a cash-and-carry owner who was hit by a lorry as he chased robbers in Barking in October.

    Shammi Atwal Shammi Atwal was struck by a lorry as he chased robbers from his shop

    Shammi Atwal, 45, died outside Glen & Co Cash and Carry in River Road, on 14 October. Six men were jailed last month convicted of manslaughter and conspiracy to rob.

     
  41.  
    Frank Dobson to quit as MP 08:37:

    Veteran Labour MP Frank Dobson has confirmed will stand down at the general election next year.

    Mr Dobson, who has represented Holborn and St Pancras in London since 1979, said he had "decided to pack in when people are stopping me in the street to say they hope I am not going."

     
  42.  
    University offers 08:27:

    Ethnic minority students are less likely than their white British peers to receive offers from UK universities, a research by London School of Economics and Political Science suggests.

    The study analysed university applications made in 2008 by 50,000 would-be students. Universities UK said institutions were actively addressing the issue

     
  43.  
    Top headlines
     
  44.  
    Appeal over burned body death 08:16:

    Police are appealing for help in investigating the death of a bus driver whose badly burned body was found under a railway archway in north London.

    Kester David

    Kester David's body was discovered behind a building in Broomfield Lane, Palmers Green, in 2010.

     
  45.  
    London overground delays 08:10:

    There are minor delays on London Overground between Gospel Oak and Barking due to faulty train at Gospel Oak.

    For the latest travel news follow @BBCTravelAlert on Twitter.

     
  46.  
    Dry and warm day 08:05:

    The day will start cloudy, but it will brighten up becoming dry with plenty of very warm sunshine.

    Maximum temperature 29C (84F)

     
  47.  
    08:00: Debabani Majumdar BBC London News

    I'll be guiding you through BBC Local Live today, bringing you the latest news, travel, weather and sport from across London.

    Get in touch with your comments and photos by emailing london.locallive@bbc.co.uk.

     

Features

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.