'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

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003