'I saw Nigella with white powder on her nose, but she claimed it was make-up': Former PA tells court she found substance in chef's bag

Francesca Grillo also told the court that Mr Saatchi had a "personal vendetta" against her and her sister Elisabetta

A former personal assistant of the television chef and 'Domestic Goddess' author Nigella Lawson "frequently" found rolled-up banknotes with white powder on them in her handbag, she told a court today.

The TV cook would also swig straight from a bottle of liquid tranquilliser, Francesca Grillo said.

Ms Grillo, one of two former personal assistants accused of defrauding Ms Lawson, said she had seen her employer with white powder up her nose and repeatedly found banknotes with white powder on them when moving her things from one handbag to another.

She also said her employer had prescription drugs for depression and that she kept one bottle in the kitchen and would take it straight from the bottle “very often”.

The alleged drug-taking turned Ms Lawson from being kind and warm-hearted to “grumpy, moody and blaming the children”, the jury heard.

Ms Grillo also said that Charles Saatchi had a “personal vendetta” against her and her sister. “He was banging on the table... he said I would end up in handcuffs.” She said the situation became “quite scary” as Mr Saatchi told her: “Hide anywhere in Italy but I will find you and destroy you.” She added: “The more he got upset, the more I got frightened. You don’t cross Charles Saatchi.”

Ms Grillo was giving evidence for a second day at Isleworth Crown Court. She and her sister Elisabetta, known as Lisa, have pleaded not guilty to defrauding Ms Lawson and her then husband Charles Saatchi. The sisters allegedly used his company credit cards on holidays and clothing between 2008 and last year.

Ms Grillo, 35, told the court on Tuesday that she ordered “fat-burning tablets” and paid for them with Mr Saatchi’s credit card in 2009. “I don’t think they were for me,” she said. She said she had never seen Ms Lawson take drugs but saw plenty of evidence.

Ms Grillo said she used to visit Lisa, 41, at Ms Lawson’s home in Shepherd’s Bush and saw rolled-up banknotes and white powder in the kitchen after dinner parties. When both sisters worked for Ms Lawson after her marriage to Mr Saatchi and moved to Belgravia, Ms Grillo said she found white powder in Ms Lawson’s handbags.

Ms Lawson has admitted to taking cocaine and cannabis but denied being an addict. She said she took cannabis in the last year of her marriage to make “the intolerable tolerable”. The case continues.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate