When photos emerged of Charles Saatchi, Nigella Lawson’s husband, repeatedly grabbing Nigella’s throat in a one-handed choke hold, Saatchi told Scotland Yard the pictures showed a “playful tiff” which gave a “more drastic and violent impression of the incident.”
Saatchi, a former British businessman and multi-millionaire art collector, has been married to Nigella Lawson, English food writer, journalist and broadcaster, for ten years.
Fellow diners and passers-by at Scott’s in Mayfair were shocked to see Saatchi grasp Nigella four times around the neck as she appeared powerless and petrified.
According to The Daily Mirror, a British national daily tabloid, at first he used only his left hand, then both. At one stage he tweaked her nose then pushed both hands in her face. And twice Nigella jerked her head backwards as if in fear.
“Several times she nodded intently while the conversation became more and more heated. By the end of the meal she was clearly distraught and in tears.”
The quarrel took place after the couple had just finished eating at a seafood restaurant popular with celebrities such as Pippa Middleton, an English socialite, journalist Jeremy Clarkson, and Simon Cowell.
Their table was partly sheltered by olive trees and box bushes, but the attack could be clearly seen and heard by other customers and those passing by the restaurant.
“It was utterly shocking to watch,” said one onlooker. “I have no doubt she was scared. It was horrific, really. She was very tearful and was constantly dabbing her eyes.
“Nigella was very, very upset. She had a real look of fear on her face. No man should do that to a woman. She raised her voice and got angry but at the same time was trying to calm him down, almost like you would try to calm down a child.”
The onlooker added: “He looked guilty. It was clear he knew he’d done something wrong. He was menacing, there’s no question. She had been abused and humiliated in public.”
An acquaintance who had a conversation with Nigella recently said: “For Saatchi, Nigella has eclipsed him and he’s grumpier. His ultimate act of rebellion has been to reject her food.”
In Monday’s Evening Standard, Saatchi said: “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 emphasise my point.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt. We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.”
Scotland Yard said “officers from the community safety unit at Westminster were aware of the Sunday People article which was published on Sunday 16 June and carried out an investigation.”
Nigella Lawson is the daughter of Nigel Lawson, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vanessa Salmon, whose family owned J. Lyons and Co., a British restaurant-chain, food-manufacturing, and hotel conglomerate.
Update 7/10 - Rumors are that Nigella Lawson has hired Fiona Shackleton as her divorce lawyer. Shackleton (Nigella’s cousin) was also the lawyer in the Paul McCartney-Heather Mills divorce.
Update 7/15 - Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi confirm that they will be getting a divorce.
Update 7/31 - Nigella Lawson granted a divorce
Update 8-13 - Saatchi threatens to commit suicide in order to get Nigella back, while allowing his daughter to make unfounded claims that Nigella was involved in illegal activities. Artist Richard Kay creates an over life size sculpture of “Not Saatchi” as the devil and encourages viewers to pose with it as if being choked.