Lawson ‘flabbergasted’ at extent of alleged fraud

 Sisters Elisabetta, left, and Francesca Grillo, arriving at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Picture: PA

Nigella Lawson has admitted she was “flabbergasted at the extent” of the alleged fraud by the Grillo sisters.

Speaking about Elisabetta, Ms Lawson said: “It’s very difficult when you find out that someone you have loved and trusted could behave that way.

“In my heart of hearts I do not believe Lisa to be a bad person. I believe her not to have a very strong moral compass.

“Lisa had been a stalwart and had helped me through a very difficult time when my first husband died. She came to me at a very difficult time in my life. She was a rock. I would have done anything for her.”

Ms Lawson, who referred to her multi-millionaire ex-husband as Mr Saatchi when giving evidence, said she once took £7,000 out of her savings to pay for Lisa to have her teeth fixed, giving her “incredible confidence”.

She said Lisa left the job at one point and she continued to pay her for three months so she would not get “too anguished” about finding a new job.

“I didn’t want her to feel that she had to stay with me.”

On Lisa’s return, she was “increasingly bitter”, Ms Lawson said. “She broke our heart.”

Ms Lawson told the court that while Lisa had become “like a member of the family”, she became “bitter” later on.

“She was not at all hardworking towards the end,” she said. “Most of the time she was on Facebook.

“I do not think her bitterness was towards me personally. I think it was towards her life.”

Ms Lawson told the court she believed the amount allegedly claimed by the defendants was “a lot higher”.

Ms Lawson said in life she is “often in the role of counsellor”, adding: “And it’s a role I gladly take.”

She said she is “quite an open person” and speaks her mind.

When asked by Mr Metzer if her PAs were expected to look “presentable”, she laughed at the notion, saying: “I’m afraid to say that I often do not look presentable.”

When Mr Metzer asked if she moved into Mr Saatchi’s house after, or around the time of, their wedding, Ms Lawson said: “I think it was quite a bit before then. Sorry to shock you.”

The court heart that Lisa wanted to move out of the family home, and Mr Metzer put to Ms Lawson: “The reason she wanted to live in private accommodation is because she said she didn’t want to live with Mr Saatchi ever again?”

Ms Lawson replied: “Yes.”

She also said she had “absolutely no idea” about the limits on the credit cards given to the defendants.

Ms Lawson said she was “incredibly close” to all of her assistants.

“I tend to trust everyone implicitly and often that’s not rewarded,” she said.

Ms Lawson refuted Mr Metzer’s claim that she would use credit cards belonging to Mr Saatchi to pay for exercise classes, manicures and pedicures.

“I paid for them sometimes by cash and sometimes by cheque,” she said, adding: “Personal trainers don’t take credit cards.”

Mr Metzer asked Ms Lawson: “Do you have it in for Lisa now?”

She replied: “No, I so don’t.”

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