The much-covered marital break-up of Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson took another very public turn on Sunday, as Mr Saatchi announced in a Sunday newspaper that the pair were to divorce, apparently before he had even told Ms Lawson.
Four weeks after pictures emerged of Mr Saatchi with his hand on a visibly distressed Ms Lawson’s throat, during lunch at Scott’s restaurant in London, the millionaire advertising man and art collector released an extraordinary statement in which he lamented the breakdown of their marriage, questioned why his wife had not defended him publicly and claimed that she had “grasped” his neck in the same way in the past.
Describing the decision as “heartbreaking for both of us”, Mr Saatchi claimed in the Mail on Sunday that the couple, who married in 2003, had “become estranged and drifted apart” over the past year.
Mr Saatchi accepted a police caution for assault following the release of the images, but seemed to take aim at his wife’s advisers when he claimed to be “disappointed that she was advised to make no public comment to explain that I abhor violence of any kind against women, and have never abused her physically in any way”.
Despite the breakdown of her marriage becoming front-page news, Ms Lawson – the food writer and television cook who has built the image of a “domestic goddess” and married Mr Saatchi after the death of her first husband, John Diamond – has so far made no comment. As a result, it has been Mr Saatchi’s comments which have driven the resulting narrative. After the initial incident came to light he spoke to the London Evening Standard, describing the incident with Ms Lawson as a “playful tiff”.
Mr Saatchi insisted that his actions “were not violent” and that he could have just as easily been the victim in the incident at what has become one of the most famous tables in London.
“The row photographed at Scott’s restaurant could equally have been Nigella grasping my neck to hold my attention – as indeed she has done in the past,” he said, “although not in front of Scott’s with a photographer snapping away.”
He stops short of apologising for expressing his point physically, but added: “I am sorry that we had a row. I am sorry she was upset. I am even more sorry that this is the end of our marriage.” On Sunday a spokesperson for Ms Lawson declined to comment.