Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi 'lied in court', Elisabetta Grillo says

Francesca (left) and Elisabetta Grillo
Image caption Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo deny fraudulently using credit cards

A former personal assistant of Nigella Lawson on trial for defrauding the TV cook and her ex-husband Charles Saatchi has accused them of lying in court.

Elisabetta Grillo, 41, told Isleworth Crown Court that she was the only one telling the truth in the case.

Ms Grillo also said that Ms Lawson's other PAs, who have given evidence in court, had also lied.

Former PAs Francesca and Elisabetta Grillo, who are sisters, deny fraudulently using credit cards.

Ms Grillo told the court that Ms Lawson gave her permission to pay for designer shoes and a language course on a credit card provided by Mr Saatchi.

'Fear of Saatchi'

The court was told that Ms Grillo did not mention that Ms Lawson had taken drugs in her original defence statement made in August because she "felt a remnant of sympathy" towards the TV chef.

In November, before the start of the trial, she provided a supplementary statement that included allegations of drug use.

Reading that statement in court, Ms Grillo's barrister Anthony Metzer QC said: "The defendant will assert that the prosecution witness Nigella Lawson habitually indulged in the use of class A and class B drugs in addition to the abuse of prescription drugs throughout the time that the defendant was employed in the household."

Image caption Nigella Lawson has denied having a drug problem

The statement added that Ms Lawson consented to the Grillos spending as they were "intimately connected to her private life and were aware of the drug use which she wanted to keep from her then-husband Charles Saatchi".

Ms Lawson has previously told the court she had taken cocaine and cannabis, but was not an addict.

'Smoking weed'

Ms Grillo also told the court that the TV chef allowed her children to smoke cannabis.

Prosecutor Jane Carpenter asked the former PA to explain a duty-free purchase of about £70 in New York in 2010.

"It was cigarettes for the children. I bought them and Nigella allowed me to buy them," Ms Grillo replied.

Ms Carpenter then asked: "What on earth did you think you were doing, buying cigarettes for under-age children?"

Ms Grillo said: "Well, if Nigella Lawson let the children smoke weed..."

The judge then interrupted the exchange.

Ms Grillo and her sister Francesca are accused of spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to Mr Saatchi and Ms Lawson on themselves.

The court heard that Ms Grillo believed that Ms Lawson maintained she did not consent to the defendant's spending because of her "fear of Mr Saatchi".

'Part of the family'

The former PA also told the court that Mr Saatchi made her withdraw cash on the credit card to buy multiple copies of his book to push it up the best-seller lists.

Mr Saatchi did not like to use credit cards to purchase the books, possibly because his company might find out what he was doing, Ms Grillo said.

"He gave me £200 so I went to different stores like Waterstones and other shops," she said.

"I went on my break, all afternoon, in taxis from east London to west London, to buy books.

"It was like four times a week."

She added "it wasn't only me" and said other PAs would also buy the books on websites using credit cards provided by Mr Saatchi.

When asked why she thought she could pay for personal expenses using the company credit card, Ms Grillo said: "I was allowed because I was part of the family.

"It's not because I was in the house, because I worked for Nigella, or because they were rich.

"I was part of the family for 14 years."

'Picked her nose'

The 41-year-old said she did not reveal Ms Lawson's drug use in her initial statement as she wanted to protect her after photographs were published of Mr Saatchi apparently grabbing his then wife's throat outside a London restaurant.

However, she said she changed her mind in November.

"I think especially when Charles picked her nose [at the restaurant], it was the proof she still took drugs and he discovered that day.

"So we then decided it was the moment for everybody to know the truth - she could lie easily."

The trial continues.

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