Lawson denies cocaine stash and regular use

Nigella Lawson was accused of stashing cocaine in a hollow book to hide her escalating habit, as she told a court she would never risk leaving her children as “orphans” by taking drugs.

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

Barrister Karina Arden, representing one of the defendants, Francesca Grillo, accused Ms Lawson of “very regular use of cocaine”, which “escalated in the last five years”.

“That is categorically not the case,” Ms Lawson replied.

Under cross-examination at Isleworth Crown Court in west London, Ms Lawson said she had “never knowingly” met a drug dealer or exchanged money for cocaine.

Asked whether “dealers were turning up at the house”, Ms Lawson replied: “No.”

She denied keeping cocaine in a hollowed-out “fake book” alongside jewellery from 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.

Ms Lawson’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 said to Ms Lawson.

“No, I have never heard that,” she said.

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,” Ms Lawson replied. “It does not need embellishment.”

Ms Lawson 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.

“I promise you... regular cocaine users do not look like this,” she said. “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.

“In my life, I’m reliable, professional and calm,” she added. “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.”

She admitted once joking about having a “cocaine habit” with a staff member as she applied make-up.

As questions of her drug use continued, Ms Lawson 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.”

Ms Lawson has also accused her multimillionaire 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. She 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.

The 53-year-old revealed on Wednesday she first took cocaine with Mr Diamond when he found out he had terminal cancer, and on another occasion later during her troubled marriage to Mr Saatchi.

The TV star said she was “not proud” after admitting she has taken cocaine and cannabis but denied that her admission was “damage limitation.”

“The fact is I would rather be honest and ashamed... I wasn’t going to be bullied with lies,” Ms Lawson said.

The trial was adjourned and will resume on Tuesday.

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