On monday, British police said they are investigating newspaper photos that show celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s husband, Charles Saatchi, with his hands around her throat appearing to strangle her in a restaurant.
The English newspaper the Sunday People published the pictures to public condemnation of the apparent rough treatment of Lawson. The tabloid newspaper said the images were taken during an argument at a London restaurant on June 9.
The 53 year-old Nigella Lawson’s spokesman, Mark Hutchinson, declined to comment on the published photographs. But Saatchi, Britain’s best-known art collector, told the London Evening Standard newspaper that the pictures misrepresented a “playful tiff.”
Saatchi, an Evening Standard columnist, told the paper that, “About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasize my point.”
He said, “There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt.”
The 70-year-old co-founder of the Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency said that the couple “had made up by the time we were home.”
Despite his claims of the tearful altercation being a “playful tiff” Saatchi revealed that after the story broke on Sunday, that he had advised Lawson to leave the couple’s London home with their children “until the dust settled.”
Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson were married in 2003 and the couple live in London with Lawson’s son and daughter from her previous marriage to journalist John Diamond, who died of cancer in 2001. Saatchi’s daughter from a previous marriage also lives with the couple.
The London police said it had not received a criminal complaint about the incident, but that, “inquiries are in hand to establish the facts” in order to assess whether a formal investigation was necessary. In Britain, it is not necessary for the victim to lodge a formal complaint of assault charges if enough evidence exists from other witnesses.
The television celebrity cook Lawson, 53, shot to fame with her 1998 best-seller “How To Eat” and is one of Britain’s best-known cookbook writers. She also hosts several food television programs that include “Nigella Bites” and ABC’s cooking program “The Taste.”
Charles Saatchi is the co-founder of the Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency. He also owns one of London’s largest private art galleries. He was the main patron of the Young British Artists movement of the 1990s, which made household names of several new artists including, including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.
Before her marriage to Saatchi, Lawson had met journalist John Diamond in 1986, when they were both writing for The Sunday Times. They married in Venice in 1992,and had two children together. Diamond was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1997, and died of the disease in March 2001 at the age of 47.
One of his last messages to Lawson was, “How proud I am of you and what you have become. The great thing about us is that we have made us who we are.” He died while Nigella was filming Nigella Bites. She said that, “I took a fortnight off. But I’m not a great believer in breaks. She suffered from a bout of depression after his death.
She married Saatchi in Sept 2003 amid some controversy after she moved in with him nine months after Diamond’s death. There were also some rumours that Lawson had started her relationship with Saatchi before Diamond’s death. Reportedly Saatchi is worth a £100 million while Nigella is reportedly worth £15 million.
The published photographs that show Nigella Lawson apparently being strangled in a public restaurant may result in a full blown police investigation after they complete their initial enquiries. There have been no further statements released by either party.
By Michael Smith