Nigella Lawson and Charles Saatchi PA trial jury retires to consider verdict

Judge says ‘battle lines in this case are clearly drawn’, as Italian sisters stand accused of credit card fraud

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The Independent Online

The two former personal assistants accused of defrauding Charles Saatchi and Nigella Lawson are set to hear their fate in court today as the jury retired to consider its verdicts.

Francesca Grillo, 35, and her sister Elisabetta, 41 were charged with spending £685,000 on credit cards belonging to the couple, who went through a bitter divorce in July.

Both the Italian sisters deny a single count each of committing fraud using a company credit card between 1 January 2008 and 31 December last year.

Judge Robin Johnson told the jury as he sent them out: “The battle lines in this case are clearly drawn.

”The Crown's case is that these two women, over a long period of time, acted dishonestly and knew perfectly well they were acting dishonestly.

“The defence case is that they had authorisation, either specifically, in terms of items bought and hotels, or implied - a taxi, taking out cash.”

Over the course of the trial the court heard allegations from the sisters that their employer Ms Lawson would “very often” be found swigging straight from a bottle of prescription drugs for depression, and that they “frequently” found banknotes with white powder on them in the TV chef’s bag.

Mr Saatchi, meanwhile, has been accused by defence counsel of possibly using the trial of the Grillo sisters as an opportunity to “attack” his former wife.

Anthony Metzer QC, defence counsel for Elisabetta, said she had been caught up in the “cross-fire” between the former couple.

Ms Lawson, 53, admitted when giving her evidence that she had taken cocaine on two separate occasions and had smoked cannabis, but told the court the idea she is a “drug addict or habitual user of cocaine is absolutely ridiculous”.

She described Mr Saatchi as a “brilliant, but brutal man” who subjected her to “intimate terrorism”.